2015 Scores

Press Status: Free
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst): 17
Legal Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 3
Political Environment (0 = best, 40 = worst): 8
Economic Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 6

Legal Environment

The constitution provides for freedoms of expression and the press, and the government generally respects these rights. Defamation was decriminalized by the 2013 Defamation Act, which also reduced the time limit for filing a civil defamation suit from six years to two; eliminated the distinction between libel and slander and established a single cause of legal action known as defamation; and introduced a provision that removed liability from media houses that innocently disseminate content from a reputable source.

Civil defamation convictions can result in high fines. In October 2014, a court ordered the Nationwide News Network (NNN) and its chief executive, Cliff Hughes, to pay former prime minister P.J. Patterson J$12.5 million (US$112,000) in defamation damages over a 2009 report on the arrival in Jamaica, from Cuba, of a charter flight carrying Patterson and executives of the Kingston-based telecommunications company Digicel. The court dismissed NNN's argument that the report was publicized as a duty to inform the public and without malicious intent, but lowered Patterson's award from the J$180 million (US$1.6 million) he sought originally.

The Official Secrets Act serves as an obstacle to the effective implementation of the 2002 Access to Information Act and the 2011 Protected Disclosures Act, which protects whistle-blowers. In practice, journalists' attempts to access official information are often met with bureaucratic delays.

Political Environment

Journalists sometimes face interference while performing their jobs. In November 2014, a government official obstructed coverage of a press conference, seizing a microphone from one journalist, and signaling for a technician to disable audio equipment while a second journalist was attempting to question him. The episode drew a rebuke from the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ). Journalists and media outlets face occasional threats from both state and nonstate actors. Two journalists received death threats in 2014 in connection with coverage of a high-profile case in which Jamaican musician Vybz Kartel was sentenced to life in prison for murder. The PAJ and the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) both condemned the threats. While the Police High Command assured journalists it was investigating the incidents, there were no reported developments in the police investigation at the year's end. There were no reports of physical attacks against journalists in 2014.

Economic Environment

Jamaica has two national daily newspapers and a daily afternoon tabloid, all of which are privately owned. There are several other national and regional periodicals serving a variety of sectors and interests, as well as more than 20 radio stations, 3 terrestrial television stations, and numerous cable networks with multiple channels. Most broadcast media are owned by the state, but they disseminate diverse viewpoints. The authorities impose no restrictions on the internet, which was accessed by 41 percent of the population in 2014.

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