The Jamaican Parliament passed a bill on Nov. 5 that fully abolishes criminal defamation within the nation. The move is unprecedented in the Caribbean, where international and local organizations have pressured the region's governments to draft similar legislation.
The country in the Americas with the highest degree of press freedom may come to some as a surprise: according to Reporters Without Borders' 2013 Press Freedom Index, Jamaica holds the top spot.
The Jamaican government will submit new defamation legislation designed to protect journalists in their work, reported the news website Caribbean360. Information Minister Sandrea Falconer says the new law will remove the distinction between libel and slander, set up a single defamation cause, and abolish the criminal libel law, added the website.
Mexico and Cuba were the worst places for journalists in the Americas, tensions between the government and privately-owned media continued to escalate in Ecuador and Argentina, and Canada lost its position as press freedom leader in the continent.
A cameraman for Jamaican television station CVM was assaulted by police and then temporarily detained for attempting to film an alleged police shooting of a shopkeeper in St. Ann, reported RJR News.
Christopher Coke, an alleged drug kingpin central to recent violence and unrest in Kingston, was arrested and extradited to the U.S. last week, but Jamaican media outlets were blocked from covering the arrest and were forced to rely on images taken by foreign photographers, the Jamaica Observer reports.
Bloggers in Jamaica have been covering for many months the series of events that led to this week’s violence and state of emergency in Jamaica over the government’s decision to extradite an alleged drug lord to the United States. Global Voices Online’s Janine Mendes-Franco compiles reports from bloggers and social media users, as does Robert Mackey for The New York Times.