Jamaica was bumped down one spot in the Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom ranking for 2021.
The island placed 7th out of 180 countries surveyed.
While the report notes that Jamaica continues to enjoy widespread respect for freedom of information, and has been consistently ranked among the safest countries in the world for journalists, it said the coronavirus pandemic has been used to block media freedom.
“However, Jamaican officials drew criticism at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when government restrictions were seen as prohibiting journalists from doing their work at a time when there was a strong need for accurate reporting,” read the report by the organisation known by its French acronym, RSF.
“The Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), along with editors and executives from the country’s major media houses, called on Prime Minister Andrew Holness to rescind public lockdown orders that prevented TV and radio presenters, reporters, camera operators, technicians and other members of the media from moving around freely,” added the RSF report .
However, Jamaica isn’t the only country whose press freedom has deteriorated since the pandemic started. According to the RSF, this has been the trend globally.
The RSF in its report said there had been a “dramatic deterioration” in press freedom since the pandemic across the world, with the organisation reporting that the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has been consistently use “as grounds to block journalists’ access to information, sources and reporting in the field.”
“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire in a statement.
“Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors,” added Deloire .
While press freedom had remained generally stable for the past year, the RSF noted that the figures had deteriorated by 12 percent since the ranking was first launched.
The RSF attributed the deterioration to increasing political polarisation and online misinformation.
The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries, compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders since 2002, based on the organisation’s assessment of the countries’ press freedom records over the previous year.