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On World Press Freedom Day, the planet and Palestine are on the Caribbean’s radar Global Voices

“(It is) a call for those who tell the stories of upheaval and loss to be heard.”

Feature image created with Canva Pro elements.

The focus of the 2024 World Press Freedom Day, celebrated annually on May 3, is on the climate crisis. Between May 2 and 4, when UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) hosts the 31st World Conference on Press Freedom Day, this time in Chile, discussions will be devoted to the importance of freedom of expression against the background of the current crisis. global environmental crisis.

This year’s theme is particularly relevant to small island developing states such as the Caribbean, which are often the first to feel the adverse effects of the climate crisis through things such as higher temperatures, sea level rise and severe adverse weather conditions. the least for global greenhouse gas emissions.

Noting that “we in the region are grappling with the existential crisis that climate change poses to the Caribbean” and that “the media plays an important role in reporting on environmental problems and possible solutions,” according to a statement issued by the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) suggested: “(T)he time has come for regional media to highlight the impact the environmental crisis is already having in our respective countries, especially its impact on the socio-economically disadvantaged.”

The ACM statement also urged media workers to use their freedom of expression responsibly, “and not engage in misinformation and disinformation.” It also said that the 2024 theme “highlights the need for specialized training of journalists in science communication so that practitioners are better able to report on the science of climate change for our diverse audiences.”

The association also challenged regional governments, NGOs and international organizations to help provide the ‘much-needed resources to support sustainable reporting on environmental issues through films, documentaries and research reports’, explaining: ‘the planet is our home and we must keep these. .”

Other regional press bodies and media houses expressed similar sentiments. For example, the Grenada Media Association announced that it would “establish a comprehensive training program aimed at strengthening environmental journalism and sustainability” to “equip media workers with the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively report on environmental issues and advocate for environmental stewardship.” ”

Meanwhile, the Media Institute of the Caribbean (MIC) has made an important link: “Today marks a call for those telling the stories of turmoil and loss to not only be heard, but to be heard as they deal with the consequences expose and share the climate. and the threats to our planet’s biodiversity. This year’s theme should be placed in the context of the meaning of freedom of expression and access to information.”

In this spirit, the company has launched “a review of freedom of information and access to information legislation in the pan-Caribbean region, identifying areas where changes would support easy access to information and a system of improved transparency regarding would create all things.” of general interest. It serves as guidance for Caribbean countries that do not have such legislation to consider.”

Knowledge is power, it said, when it comes to the “millions of people (who) face the consequences of losing ecological ecosystems and negatively altering their lives.” MIC saw a direct correlation between this knowledge and its advocacy for “more accessible information where people can be better prepared to address their challenges through informed decision-making.”

The organization also made it a point to pay tribute to “the journalists who continue to persevere against all odds to keep their stories at the forefront of the global issues agenda” and commended “the environmentalists, civil society organizations and actors from the private sector working to make a difference.”

However, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) decided to focus attention elsewhere. Noting that an “unprecedented number of journalists were murdered” in 2023, it joined colleagues around the world in solidarity with a free press to mourn journalists – including an unprecedented number lost during their duties and in the Gaza war zone – and to call for greater protection for all media workers.”

Harkening back to its mission to “defend freedom of the press and the Fourth Estate as enshrined in the Constitution (of Trinidad and Tobago), MATT pledged to “remain vigilant on behalf of journalists, recognizing that a strong democracy depends on a free and fair media.” ”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 2023 was one of the deadliest for journalists in almost a decade, with many of the victims being Palestinians reporting on Israel’s war on Gaza under impossible conditions. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) was dismayed by both the high mortality rate among journalists (over 10 percent) and the fact that foreign journalists have been denied access to the Gaza Strip since October 2023.

In this context, MATT said, it supported “the IFJ’s move to nominate its subsidiary, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for 2024 as a way to honor all journalists in Gaza.”

It has since been announced that Palestinian journalists covering Gaza have been named as laureates of the 2024 prize.

On May 2, Trinidad and Tobago joined the many other Caribbean countries that have officially recognized the state of Palestine.

The World Press Freedom Index, published annually on World Press Freedom Day, recognizes that journalists around the world are under significant political pressure: “Press freedom around the world is under threat from the very people who should guarantee it : the political authorities. (…) This finding is based on the fact that of the five indicators used to compile the rankings, this is the political indicator that has fallen the most, with a global average decline of 7.6 points.”

Therefore, while some regional journalists were committed to their role in helping protect the planet, others, like MATT, stood in solidarity with fellow journalists, “redoubled their commitment to holding those in power accountable, (…) and remained a voice for the voiceless and strong as the pillar of democracy.”