Freedom of the Press - Trinidad and Tobago (2007)
|Publication Date||2 May 2007|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press - Trinidad and Tobago (2007), 2 May 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/478cd55028.html [accessed 10 July 2014]|
Legal Environment: 5 (of 30)
Political Environment: 11 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 8 (of 30)
Total Score: 24 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, but certain aspects of a draft constitution under consideration raise concerns. Although it maintains the right to press freedom, the draft includes a section stating that the rights of freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression do not preclude the state from regulating the broadcast or publication of information. Freedom of information legislation is in place, but the government has been criticized for gradually narrowing the categories of information accessible by the public under this law.
A major issue of contention in 2005 was the release of a draft national broadcasting code designed to deter talk radio stations from aggravating simmering ethnic tensions. By 2006, there had been such opposition to the draft code from media houses that it was withdrawn for possible redrafting. In November, there was also renewed concern about the use of libel legislation to restrict media operations when the Trinidad and Tobago News Centre, publisher of the weekly Mirror, was ordered to pay a government minister the exorbitant sum of US$65,800 in libel damages. Separately, in July the Privy Council ordered the government to issue a commercial FM broadcasting license to Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS), the principal Hindu organization in the country, ending six years of rejected requests. In its decision, the Privy Council determined that the government had subjected the SDMS to unequal treatment under the law and, in the process, had denied it the right to freedom of expression. There were no physical attacks on the press in Trinidad and Tobago during the year.
There are 3 daily and 3 weekly newspapers operating in Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to the 3 television stations and over 30 radio stations that are privately owned, a new state-owned company, the Caribbean News Media Group, launched a new radio station in February and a new television station in September. Although the internet is not restricted by the government, broadband services are limited to a few upscale residential areas and only 12 percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2006.