The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has struggled to maintain a strong press freedom record despite editorial censorship and growing political influence.
On several of the islands, political parties hold majority shares in media companies, undermining journalistic independence throughout the region. Governments also wield significant influence over radio stations, newspapers and online media outlets, including The Grenada Explorer and Antiqua Breaking News. More and more political bloggers are challenging traditional media professionals and outlets.
Throughout the area, media outlets are under the direct influence of politicians, especially during election cycles: as elected officials can withdraw state advertising from media outlets at any time, depriving them of income they depend on. This was the case in Grenada, where there was a cover up of a worker’s protest against the general manager of Grenada’s Broadcasting Network, which is the only media network that provides coverage throughout the entire country.
In 2016, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed an ambiguous cybercrime law aimed at curbing online press freedom under the guise of criminal defamation. It supplemented an earlier law providing that persons convicted of defamation in the print or broadcast media face up to two years in prison, adding online media to the list.
While the news industry has experienced a phase of economic growth, journalists are generally poorly trained and often abandon their profession because of very low salaries, an issue that mostly affects women in the region. Early 2023, media professionals in some countries were still not receiving salaries equivalent to those they received before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Journalism is not considered a prestigious or lucrative profession throughout the region.
No journalists were killed last year, but in June 2020, Nation News photojournalist Christoff Griffith was killed while on assignment in Barbados, prompting an investigation. While journalists can generally work safely and freely, they may be subject to threats or intimidation from criminal organisations. This harassment has increased, especially online threats from well-known political supporters, with more bloggers covering OECS countries.