There is an urgent need for Access to Information and Freedom of Information legislation and improvements to what currently exists. Most countries in our Caribbean region lack this necessary framework that will guarantee information as a public good. During the pandemic period, there has been a marked increase in the number of refusals for information from journalists.
Observance of World Press Freedom Day 2021 focuses heavily on the value of “Information as a Public Good.” For the Caribbean, this strikes an important chord within the context of public information as a key component of the achievement of developmental goals. This year’s UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Conference pointed to themes relevant to our region: media capture and media extinction. In addition to these, we face a threat to independent journalism and the disappearance of smaller independent media entities. A survey commissioned by the Media Institute of the Caribbean in October 2020 indicated that as much as fifty-four per cent (54%) of journalists had to seek additional employment due to changes in the newsroom portfolio.
The pandemic circumstances showed the necessity for quality journalism and the significance of a constant and free flow of information as demanded by the public. The irony of our current situation is the evident significance of the role of media in a time of crisis, yet we seem to be fighting extinction. There are peculiarities of the media ecosystem in small island developing states, including the level of financial dependence on government and state advertising revenue and the small economies of scale with deteriorating revenue from the private sector. There is a challenge for economic survival.
Among the more important requirements of such as commitment is the entrenched presence of mechanisms to facilitate the freer flow of official information. These include better resourced public information systems, a more conducive culture of governance and the presence of strong, meaningful legislation to better facilitate public access to state-held information.
Journalists stay determined to get the facts, data and information in the public interest. This is a crossroads in our information era, and it is time for all walks of society to join the call for Access to Information and Freedom of Information legislation. The media also continues to fight fake news but need facts to have victory.
Within the context of media extinction that the global journalism fraternity faces, it is essential to note that this means the demise of truth, which leads ultimately to the decay of democracy and the death of sustainable societies.