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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Antigua and Barbuda

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Antigua and Barbuda, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c565255.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The press in this tiny Caribbean island nation has long been independent, but recent efforts at more aggressive news coverage have brought journalists into open conflict with the long-ruling Antigua Labor Party, controlled by the Bird family.

For example, L. Tim Hector, a leader of the opposition United Progressive Party and publisher of The Outlet, a biweekly newspaper, was served with eight separate court orders prohibiting publication of any information about an alleged scandal linking Prime Minister Lester B. Bird to the Colombian drug cartels. According to stories published in The Outlet quoting a Venezuelan businessman and a Colombian government official, Bird was paid a $1-million bribe to allow Antigua and Barbuda to be used as a transfer point for cocaine bound for the United States. Under the country's strict libel laws, Hector could be jailed for publishing additional information.

The government generally relies on subtler means to control the flow of information. Of the three local radio stations, one is government-run and the others are controlled by the Bird family. The sole television station is also run by the state, while a brother of the prime minister owns the cable company. A court decision in December upheld the government's September 1996 closing of a radio station started by newspaper owners Winston and Sammuel Derrick, allegedly for operating without a license.

Strategists in the ruling Antigua Labor Party – which has controlled the government since 1976 – blame critical news coverage for their poor electoral showings in the last general elections.

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