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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) has warned that the environment within which journalists in the Caribbean region operate is becoming ”increasingly perilous”.
In a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, the regional media umbrella group urged Caribbean governments and their “domestic allied institutions to take all necessary steps to ensure that journalists are not targeted with the intention of revealing the identity of confidential sources”.
The ACM said that the theme for this year’s observance – “Journalism Under Digital Siege” – casts the global spotlight on the security of journalists in pursuit of their professional commitments. It said when media workers speak of security, “we refer to physical security under hostile conditions” and that these may include such as coups d’etat, violent protests, and terrorist activities. “While not diminishing the significance of these, media workers and particularly journalists are increasingly falling prey to cybersecurity threats. These can ultimately lead to physical harm of journalists, their sources, and the damage or destruction of their Information Technology (IT) devices and infrastructure.
“The environment within which journalists in the Caribbean operate is becoming increasingly perilous. Even so, many countries have already enacted legislation to intercept communication and counter what they regard as cybercrime. There is evidence to support the view that cybercrime legislation can become abused and become problematic in the context of the preservation of free expression.”
The ACM said that in a number of Caribbean countries, state entities have been accused of acquiring spyware that can access digital communication and undermine privacy and other rights. It said that with most media and journalists having an online presence, media enterprises have become acutely aware of some inherent vulnerabilities. These include exposure to hackers whose sole objective is to destroy channels that offend the public or private status quo and so inhibit the free flow of the truth to the wider public.
“Equally, journalists and media houses are being advised to put in place the required measures to prevent, detect and block intrusions to their privacy and ultimately their software and hardware infrastructure,” the ACM said, pledging to treat the matter of cyber security and journalism with utmost priority in conjunction with state and non-state actors as well as its international affiliates