KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has congratulated the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for moving up 32 place to rank 25th among 179 countries and regions on Reporters Without Borders’ 2011 World Press Freedom Index.
“First of all, I want to celebrate with you, the members of the media and all the people of the OECS with the assessment, the judgement of Reporters Without Borders …” Gonsalves said at the beginning of a press briefing yesterday.
His comments came one week after he objected to a local newspaper providing space for a weekly column by the minority Green Party here.
Gonsalves, noting that the region had moved 31 places since the 2010 assessment, said it was a “significant jump”.
“Now, they have assessed the OECS as a whole, simply because there is really very little difference between the respective countries from the OECS,” he said of the region that tied with Mali and Slovakia.
Reporters Without Borders said that the OECS “improved their position in the index thanks to an almost total lack of acts of violence or serious breaches of freedom of information”.
“And interestingly, Reporters with Borders, an independent entity, has placed the OECS, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, higher on its index than the great United States of America in relation to freedom of the press,” Gonsalves said.
Reporters with Borders said the worldwide wave of protests in 2011 dragged the USA to 47, 27 places lower than in 2010
“Yet of course, we beat up ourselves here with political partisanship that the press isn’t free, that the comrade got the press un-free. Now when you get that kind of ridiculous misstatement of facts, all you do is that you pull your country down,” Gonsalves said.
“We know that we have a very free press here,” said Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party government has refused to sign into law, a freedom of information act passed in Parliament.
“I have stated it before openly — some people took issue with it when I said it before — that this country is one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world. And in the Caribbean, there is no country which is freer and more democratic than St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I am not saying that others are not as free,” he said.
“And compared to the United States of America, which is a land of tremendous freedom, this country, on any series of indices, can be compared very favourably. And we have seen them – on the good governance indices, … ease of doing business. You know all the numbers, you have seen all the indices, all the indicators,” Gonsalves further stated.
He, however, said that the actual placement in the list is not that important.
“Because if a country is listed 25 it could just as easily be listed 20 or be listed 30. This is not an exact science. It involves a number of judgements but what it indicates is that our country is in the top echelons of free and democratic societies in the world and we have seen those indices improve under the watch of the Unity labour Party administration…” Gonsalves said.
“And very often, there are people in this country’s some of them who make their living from being Cassandras. That is an expression used to refer to those who do nothing but say the worst and pull down …” he added.
Finland ranked number one on the index while Eritrea was 179.