Kentish , ACM president
Kentish , ACM president

Media workers in the Caribbean join the rest of their colleagues around the globe in observing World Press Freedom Day 2020 under the theme "Journalism Without Fear or Favour".

This year's observances come at a most critical period in world history - a time when we are far more integrated by modern Information Communications Technology, but also when we are facing socio-economic collapse globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying responses.

We pause to express deepest sympathy to our colleagues in the Caribbean who may have lost loved ones to COVID-19. To media workers whose lives have been snatched by this dreaded disease, we salute them and thank them for their contributions to the public they served.

The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) takes this opportunity to to remind Caribbean governments that the battle against COVID-19 cannot be won solely with syringes, ventilators and medicinal trials. This war against the coronavirus has to be also waged through data and information that are accurate and timely.

It is a disservice to a public in need of guidance and vital information that some Caribbean policy makers have chosen to deliver partial information through one-way processes that do not provide platforms for responses to informed enquiry in the public interest. In this regard, observance of the value of a free press can be an important antidote in the arsenal assembled to battle COVID-19.

The COVID-19 crisis has so far also taught us an important lesson that many Caribbean governments need to pay greater attention to Crisis Communication systems capable of addressing the phenomenon of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.

We also recognise the potential of this crisis to undermine the economic stability of the media sector and, in the process, reduce the ability of independent journalism to be applied under such circumstances. The Association of Caribbean Media Workers stands ready to play its part in the furtherance of press freedom more so in challenging times like this one.

We leave you with the apt words of the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay

She says, "At a time when we are mired in worry and uncertainty because of the coronavirus disease (COVID -19) pandemic, free information is essential to helping us face, understand, think about and overcome this crisis. First, we must consider the vital importance of information in this situation: informing the public means giving everyone the means of combatting the illness by adopting appropriate practices."