Friday, 16 October 2009

Licensing of Journalists

A few misguided people at the CARICOM Secretariat will try soon to get Caribbean governments to agree to model legislation that will have the effect of imposing a licensing regime on journalists and other media workers.

The move is actually part of an attempt to 'regularise' the status of professionals in a wide range of disciplines in the context of the CSME in the mistaken belief that this will somehow improve the 'marketability' of Caribbean professionals.

Apart from this premise being absolute nonsense, there is the dangerous suggestion that the licensing of journalists will help lift standards, especially if minimum training and other conditions are met.

The Model legislation is entitled the 'Model Professional Services Bill'.

The subject was raised by a CARICOM official in a rather routine manner at a CSME workshop in St Lucia on October 12.

I immediately advised that this matter is not subject to negotiation and that it will have to be contested and withdrawn as a proposal with any impact on media workers.

It is a well-established fact that the licensing of journalists constitutes an outright threat to freedom of the press and other rights. There is also useful judicial opinion on this through the Costa Rica case of 1985 and several other matters that reached the US and other courts.

The ACM is moving quickly to nip this in the bud. We are inviting a senior CARICOM official to discuss this matter with us at the forthcoming Conference and Fifth Biennial General Meeting in Grenada on December 10-12, 2009. Hopefully, the outcome will be a very clear message to have this withdrawn as a proposal to CARICOM Member States.

This is dangerous territory and I am urging everyone use the tools at our disposal to publicise this issue and to act decisively to ensure the model Bill, especially as it relates to media workers, does not reach anywhere near our parliaments.

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