Synopsis of the Commonwealth Press
Antigua and Barbuda
A free press exists in Antigua and Barbuda. The main publications – the Sun, the Observer and the Worker's voice (published jointly by the Antigua Labour Party and the Antigua Trades and Labour Union) are regularly critical of government and/or opposition. Not aware of any major violations of press freedom in the past.
Although ownership is concentrated the press scene in Australia is vibrant and extensive, with thousands of titles throughout both major cities and smaller communities. Many journalists there feel recent events do not bode well for press freedom. Federal and state government-ordered suppression orders in courts, refusal of Freedom of Information applications and terror-related laws have eaten away at press freedom, they say.
The Bahamas has a free and independently-owned press with, at last count, four main dailies and one twice-weekly publication. Some of these, like the 161-year-old Nassau Guardian are very well-established and respected.
Although a free press is constitutionally guaranteed in Bangladesh, the vibrant and critical press there is often confronted with political, religious and legal intimidation/harassment.
Still, the hundreds of newspapers available in multiple languages don't shirk from criticising government or big business when deemed necessary.
Much like most of its other Caribbean Commonwealth neighbours, Barbados enjoys a completely unfettered press. All the newspapers are privately owned and will be critical of the government should the occasion demand it.
There are no daily papers in this small Caribbean nation. Several weekly papers do exist however, but are either subsidised or owned and operated by political parties. Despite the obvious pitfalls of having politically-affiliated papers, media freedom is constitutionally guaranteed – except in the interest of national security, public order and 'morality'.
It's rare to see news of any violation of constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression or acts of hostility towards the media in Botswana. It has one government-owned paper and several private daily and weekly papers, most of which are circulated in urban areas.
It's rare to hear anything in the news about the state of the press in quiet Brunei; that's likely because all forms of media there, including newspapers, are either owned or controlled by the royal family. Self-censorship occurs in serious reporting on politics or religion and reporting 'false news' is punishable by a three-year jail term. There is only one main English-language daily.
2006 was not a good year for the reputation of the Cameroon press and most of the damage was self-inflicted. Under the pretext of safeguarding public health in a country where homosexuality is a crime, several papers ran anti-homosexual campaigns listing public figures alleged to be gay. Due to equally strict criminal libel laws, these editors could face jail terms. Still, Cameroon papers not engaging in sensational stories like this are vociferous in their criticism of the government and sometimes pay the price with heavy-handed government action/restrictions.
With hundreds of local and regional newspapers and two excellent national newspapers, Canada has a newspaper industry that presents a variety of divergent views. The industry however has become more consolidated in the hands of a few over the years. Press freedom issues are rare; the most recent and high-profile saw a judge rule that legislation that led to police raids on an Ottawa Citizen reporter's home violated her charter rights.
Although – like the island itself – the small Cypriot press is divided into north and south, it still operates freely and often criticises (in English, Greek and Turkish) the respective government it find itself governed by. The last major press freedom violation was the 2004 bombing of a Turkish-Cypriot paper.
Daily news is tough to come by in newspapers in Dominica; that's because the tiny Caribbean island's four publications are all weekly. Nevertheless, the papers are free from any government interference and can be quite critical.
Fiji Islands - presently suspended from the Commonwealth
In a country where the main source of information comes from radio, Fiji's newspapers remain vigorous in their coverage and are usually not afraid to criticise those in power. But that changed in late 2006 after the country experienced its fourth coup in 20 years. The military government briefly imposed military censorship on the biggest paper, the Fiji Times, but backed off after it refused to publish under those conditions. The Daily Post, which is close to the ousted PM, continues to be harassed/questioned by the military, as do other journalists.
There is nearly nothing positive to say about newspapers in The Gambia. Although there are privately-owned papers that pay huge license fees to operate they all – bar the government-supporting Observer – live in fear of government crackdowns and self-censor. It's common for journalists to go missing, get arrested, be beaten or generally be harassed by the government. Journalists can be jailed for libel or sedition. There are a number of US-based Gambian news websites, but they are usually unbalanced and adopt a near-hysterical tone when discussing politics.
Like Botswana, Ghana is one of the role models for a free press in Africa. There are a number of privately-owned daily and weekly papers, all of which aren't frightened of being critical. There are also three state-owned papers which, despite the mouthpiece stigma that comes with such publications, are also widely read.
Grenada has constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press, which is regularly critical of the government. All the papers there are published on a weekly basis, including the United Labour Party mouthpiece Guardian.
Starting with the murder of five print workers at the privately-owned Kaieteur News in Aug. 2006 and, more recently, with the ongoing suspension of government advertising from the often critical Stabroek News, normally low-lying Guyana has slipped onto the press freedom radar for all the wrong reasons. The private papers there are free to criticise but have in the past self-censored. The aforementioned papers and the government-owned Chronicle are the main publications in Guyana.
The one Commonwealth country where it is definitively safe to say the newspaper industry is booming. There are thousands of papers in multiple languages across India and more seem to launch every month. Circulation for the main English and Hindi-language papers is staggering, reaching into the millions – as does daily readership. Press freedom violations occur occasionally and are often connected to journalists exposing corrupt business practices and politicians – or a combination of the two.
Jamaica has a long-established and healthy newspaper industry. Press freedom violations are rare and newspapers will regularly be critical of the government or other authorities. The Gleaner is probably Jamaica's best know and widest-read paper, but competes with two other big dailies and one weekly paper for readers.
Kenya is dominated by two main papers – The Nation and The East African Standard. Both have the lion's share of the market and, along with the rest of Kenya's press, can largely be considered free. That status came under attack though when in March 2006, armed government agents raided the offices of the Standard, removing equipment and burning thousands of copies of the next day's paper. Currently, there is also considerable debate about a proposed new media bill that critics say would hinder the media from doing its job.
Reflecting Kiribati's small size, there are only two weekly papers; one government-owned and one privately-owned. Both offer a diverse range of views and compete with publications from the Catholic church – an important source of information for many islanders.
The private press in Lesotho runs opposing views to those of the government-owned publications, but are often targeted with defamation suits in an effort to discourage or control what is said about those in power. Most papers are weekly but because of high printing costs they play second fiddle to radio as an information source.
Like many of its fellow African countries, Malawi does not have a completely free press and still, occasionally, uses laws like criminal libel to discourage or apply pressure to journalists. Despite this the privately-owned papers there still present a range of critical views and opinions.
There are no shortage of papers in Malaysia but the environment in which they operate is one of the strictest in the Commonwealth, in terms of censorship and self-censorship. Many of the papers are owned and operated by the government, which takes very seriously the idea of controlling news of issues which it believes could create friction in the country. Newspapers have to renew their publication licenses annually and can have them suspended or revoked by the government. News websites, especially Malaysiakini.com, are more daring and outspoken in their coverage.
The Maldives once had a terrible reputation for media freedom but the new government appears to be keeping its promise and encouraging a more relaxed environment. Circulation of Divehi and English-language papers is small due to the geographic spread of the atolls and small population.
For such a small place, Malta has its fair share of newspapers. At last count there were five dailies (two of which are owned by the Nationalist Party and General Workers' Union) and two weeklies (also owned by the NP and GWU). Maltese and English-language papers run side-by-side. There are no press freedom issues of note in Malta.
With constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression and the press, Mauritian newspapers are quietly going about their business; there are no major press freedom violations to speak of and the two main paper groups - Le Mauricien Ltd. and La Sentinelle Ltd. - dominate the discourse.
High levels of illiteracy in Mozambique often make newspapers the tertiary source of news and information for many. Although media freedom is protected under law, criminal libel/defamation laws are often used to deter/discourage journalists from repeatedly running stories about those in positions of power – although courts rarely enforce them. The most recent and notable news in press freedom terms was the 2006 jailing of the leader of a gang that killed journalist Carlos Cardoso in 2000; it's rare for an African journalist's killer to be brought to justice with such an effective sentence.
There are no major obstacles to press freedom in Namibia. Although there is a government-owned daily, it competes with a number of mutli-lingual (English, German, Afrikaans) dailies and weeklies which do not shy away from airing opposition views or being critical of the government; the Namibian is probably the widest-read of these publications.
The world's smallest republic has no daily news publication, but does offer two weekly papers and one fortnightly paper. Locals rely heavily on radio for their news, much of which is provided by the BBC or ABC.
All together, there are hundreds of local, regional and national titles in New Zealand. The publications offer a diversity of views and are often critical of the government and opposition parties. The Herald is the country's largest circulating paper, but competes with several other smaller, equally excellent publications for public attention.
Nigeria's press is animated and plentiful; there are hundreds of papers – both 'serious' and tabloid - throughout the country and while many of them are government-owned, an equal number are privately-owned and don't shy away from being critical. Still, Nigerian journalists are often made targets by angry government officials, politicians or businessmen who are the focus of their reports, often about corruption. Journalists there had a difficult 2006, with many facing police beatings, short -term arrests, death threats and . Two were killed at the end of 2006 in what appeared to be random acts of violence/robbery.
The press is very outspoken in Pakistan but often engage in their criticism at a cost. Intimidation, beatings, threats, kidnappings and murder do occur on a regular basis, with journalists in the tribal areas facing particular difficulties. Governments have also been known to withhold advertising from newspapers in an attempt to influence or coerce coverage in a certain direction. Although much of the recent violence against the media have been against TV stations, newspaper journalists are no less at risk. Despite all this, the print media have greater freedom under President Musharraf than they did under his predecessor. There are hundreds of papers in circulation in Pakistan in both English and Urdu.
Papua New Guinea
Because radio is the main source of news in PNG there are only two main papers in Papua New Guinea – the Post-Courier and the National. Both are foreign-owned, but it is the former that could safely be called the paper of record. The latter is strongly associated with the logging industry in PNG and its coverage and editorial content reflects that link. Journalists from the Post-Courier have in the past been threatened with violence and intimidated in other ways because of the paper's stories on government and business corruption.
St. Kitts and Nevis
Political and union-affiliated newspapers jostle for space with privately-owned daily and weekly papers in St. Kitts and Nevis. All are free to criticise the government and other authority figures without fear of repercussion.
Six papers vie for readers' attention in St. Lucia, all of them weeklies. The main publication is The Voice, which runs thrice-weekly. The Star, Crusader, Vanguard, Mirror and One Caribbean are its rivals, printing once a week. All carry a range of views. There are no press freedom problems to speak of in St. Lucia.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
The four newspapers in St. Vincent – one daily and three weeklies – are all privately-owned and will openly criticise government and other authority figures, if necessary.
Samoa is yet another small Commonwealth country with seemingly more publications than one might expect for its size. At last count, there were five separate publications (including one magazine), the largest of these being the privately-owned Samoa Observer. Although Samoa's press is largely considered free, the government has acted against the Observer with lawsuits over corruption and abuse of office reports, and the withdrawal of advertising – a common squeeze tactic used by papers in countries with more difficult press freedom situations.
Tough libel laws haven't completely stopped the relatively young private or pro-opposition press from reporting on and criticising the government. One of these papers, Regar, was forced to suspend publication in Oct. 2006 after being hit with a £35,000 fine in a lawsuit. That left the islands with two government-affiliated newspapers and one opposition-aligned publication.
Strict libel laws and the courts are often used to deter journalists in Sierra Leone from reporting on high-level government corruption; so much so, in fact, that it has become a a taboo topic and journalists self-censor. Still, this hasn't stopped papers – dozens of which are published in Freetown despite low literacy rates – from being critical of the authorities.
Perhaps one of the most restricted Commonwealth press environments, Singapore is not a shining example of how a free press should operate. The government and ruling party dominate the newspaper industry, largely through Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes 23 different titles.
Journalists are fairly open and balanced when reporting national or regional issues but exercise what can only be described as serious self-censorship when it comes to domestic policies.
There is only one daily paper – the Solomon Star – in the Solomon Islands; it competes with two weekly and two monthly publications. There have been no serious threats to press freedom since the ethnic violence that plagued the islands was quelled in 2003. High rates of illiteracy ensure the press isn't widely read; radio is the key source of information for many islanders.
Undoubtedly Africa's best example of how a free and vibrant press can and should operate, South Africa is jam-packed with hundreds of newspapers in multiple languages, formats and carrying a wide range of criticism and views. Freedom of the press is constitutionally-guaranteed and there is little indication journalists there experience any sort of violence or intimidation through the courts or otherwise in the course of their work.
Despite the wealth of newspapers in three different languages and a highly literate population, it has been a difficult few years for Sri Lankan journalists. The end of the war against the rebel Tamil Tiger forces earlier this year has not been as positive for the media as was previously hoped. Many senior journalists have left the island and the high profile murder of a leading editor in the first month of 2010 caused widespread shock and condemnation. In the past few yearsTamil journalists and newspapers especially have borne the brunt of a series of murders, beatings, jailings and newsprint shortages – allegedly at the hands of government and Tiger forces. Most privately-owned English and Sinhala-language papers still actively criticise the government.
Swaziland manages to stay off the radar in terms of press freedom violations, but that's thanks to a combination of strict government control and self-censorship – journalists don't have much freedom in one of the world's last absolute monarchies. It is unheard of to criticise the king, his government or policies. The one privately-owned daily paper – the Times of Swaziland – is largely light-weight and covers sport, entertainment and what has been described as “news trivia”.
Another monarchy that exercises fairly strict control of its printed media. Privately-owned papers do criticise the king and his government but often pay for it with harassment and threats of criminal charges. The Times of Tonga – published from New Zealand – and the bi-monthly Matangi Tonga compete with the state-owned Tonga Chronicle.
Trinidad and Tobago
With constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of the press, Trinidad and Tobago does not suffer from any major threats to press freedom. Its three dailies and three political weeklies provide a diverse range of views and criticism. The Express is probably the best-known and widest read paper.
At the risk of sounding dismissive, not much happens in Tuvalu. The market is so small that the government issues two publications as a service to citizens. One is a government news sheet published in Tuvaluan, the other is the fortnightly Tuvalu Echoes.
The two largest papers in Uganda – the government-owned New Vision and privately-owned Monitor – seem to spend a lot of time sniping at one another, while the up-and-coming Red Pepper tabloid sticks to salacious tales of crime, violence and sex. Journalists for the private press do experience harassment and intimidation but still freely criticise the government. The government has been known to crack down on the foreign press and in 2006 kicked out a Canadian journalist working for the Economist and Christian Science Monitor.
Consumers of news have no shortage of choice when it comes to papers in Tanzania. There are a number of dailies and weeklies in both English and Swahili. The government operates the country's oldest paper, the Daily News. Most of the press freedom problems occur in semi-autonomous Zanzibar, which has a separate media policy from Tanzania.
The government-owned weekly competes with a surprising number (four) of other privately-owned papers. There are no major press freedom issues of note in Vanuatu.
Libel laws and other forms of intimidation are used to dissuade journalists from doing their work, especially when it comes to reporting corruption. Defamation of the president is a criminal offence and can be applied loosely. Two state-owned papers, the Times of Zambia and the Daily Mail, compete with the privately-owned and often vociferous Post.