CIVICUS

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Barbados

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Last updated on 06.04.2018 at 13:37

Barbados-Overview

Civic space is broadly respected in Barbados, which retains a healthy democratic tradition with free and fair elections and a strong rule of law. Civil society organisations are free to operate in practice and to promote a variety of causes.

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Public workers in Barbados strike to demand better salaries and fewer job cuts

Public workers in Barbados strike to demand better salaries and fewer job cuts

One of the main Unions in Barbados organised a two days strike to call for better salaries

Peaceful Assembly

During the second week of January 2018, Barbados’ largest labour union, the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), called for a general two-day strike after negotiations with the government over pay increases and job cuts failed. Many in public service participated in the strike which prompted workers to “go slow” in an effort to hinder productivity in a way that would force the government into negotiations. The strike was uneventful, and while it may not have prompted action from the government, it garnered significant public attention.

On the 22nd February 2018, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, Dr. Kristina Hinds, led a protest against visiting Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who was speaking at a university event. According to reports, the protest was sparked by "a case in St Vincent involving 22-year-old former model Yugge Farrell who is charged with using abusive language towards the wife of Finance Minister Camilo Gonsalves who is the son of PM Gonsalves”. During the protest that took place on campus, Dr. Hinds remarked that, “we want to help ensure our political system guarantees justice for all".  The protest took place for about ten minutes before the Royal Barbados Police Force removed protesters from the lecture hall.

Association

The constitution of Barbados, in Article 21, provides that nobody can be deprived of the right to ‘associate with other persons’ and form ‘associations for the protection of his interests’. The only exceptions to this rule occur when it is ‘reasonably required’ for ‘defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health’ or the protection of the rights of others.

The constitution of Barbados, in Article 21, provides that nobody can be deprived of the right to ‘associate with other persons’ and form ‘associations for the protection of his interests’. The only exceptions to this rule occur when it is ‘reasonably required’ for ‘defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health’ or the protection of the rights of others.

Peaceful Assembly

Protests are relatively frequent in Barbados and usually peaceful – recent protests have addressed a range of issues including unfair dismissal of workers, opposition to a new government tax and a hike in student fees. Barbados’ laws on public gatherings fall short of international standards and best practices related to peaceful assembly.

Protests are relatively frequent in Barbados and usually peaceful – recent protests have addressed a range of issues including unfair dismissal of workers, opposition to a new government tax and a hike in student fees. Barbados’ laws on public gatherings fall short of international standards and best practices related to peaceful assembly. Rather than simply notifying the authorities of their intention to gather, organisers of public meetings, marches and processions must first obtain prior permission, in the form of a permit from the Commissioner of Police. They must also list the names of all non-citizens who are due to speak at those events. The law also grants a government minister sweeping powers to ban meetings and protests in whole areas of the country, if he or she deems that to be ‘in the interest of public safety.’

Expression

Barbados has a healthy respect for free speech and a vibrant media space ensures that people have access to a range of views and opinions. Like most Caribbean countries, defamation remains a criminal offence in Barbados and the punishment for libel is imprisonment of up to 12 months or a fine, although actual use of these laws appears to be rare.

Barbados has a healthy respect for free speech and a vibrant media space ensures that people have access to a range of views and opinions. Like most Caribbean countries, defamation remains a criminal offence in Barbados and the punishment for libel is imprisonment of up to 12 months or a fine, although actual use of these laws appears to be rare. Barbados has no law in place that allows citizens access to government information, despite repeated promises by the government to enact a law. Positively however, Barbados has done away with sedition laws that criminalise criticism or insulting of the government or heads of state. The Internet is not restricted or censored in Barbados, and, in 2014, almost 77% of people were online.