CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Jamaica

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Last updated on 09.05.2018 at 03:12

Jamaica-Overview

Jamaica has a thriving and vocal civil society that works nationally and regionally on a range of interventions, from service delivery to advocacy. Civil society believes it has a good relationship with the state, and enjoys strong social trust.

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Residents protest police shooting using barricades and their bodies to block roads

Residents protest police shooting using barricades and their bodies to block roads

A few protests took place in Jamaica to demand proper police operations when dealing with criminal activities.

Peaceful Assembly

Residents in Jamaica recently took to the streets as part of protest actions against the Jamaican police. One of the protests came in the wake of the shooting of a St. Mary’s resident by police. Residents claim that the police account of the incident was inaccurate and that the individual shot was deliberately targeted by police. The protest turned into a blockade as “residents used their bodies to block the roads…in protest of the killing. The protest later escalated with debris being used to block the roads”. A news source described the situation thus: “the police have been trying to clear the roadblock along Gully Road, but the residents have been resisting”.

Anotto Bay residents protested police action in the case of a murder of a three year-old, as they claimed police apprehended the wrong suspect. Reports indicated that during the protest, “the residents…turned out as early as 7 am…to use stones and other form of debris to block the main road leading into the town. As the police tried to clear sections of the roadway, the disgruntled residents again blocked the thoroughfare. This led to the police firing shots to disperse the unruly crowd. However, the residents have not relented as they continue to block additional sections of the roadway”.

In a separate incident, teachers across Jamaica participated in a three-day strike in response to the government’s inability to increase teachers' wages. The strike followed months of salary negotiations between the government and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, which is the union which represents public school teachers. Hoping to force a resolution, a large number of teachers took part in the strike by not showing up to work. Many students had to be sent home as a result. “The National Parenting Teachers Association called on the Government and the teachers to urgently resume wage negotiations to try reach an amicable solution to the ongoing dispute”.

Association

Article 13 of the Constitution protects the freedom of association, with limitations on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited.

Article 13 of the Constitution protects the freedom of association, with limitations on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited. These freedoms are generally respected, and a wide range of civil society groups, including human rights groups, women’s rights groups, environmental organisations, faith-based bodies and trade unions are reported to be able to operate freely. Challenges CSOs face include those of financial sustainability, with Jamaica classed as a middle-income country and therefore no longer able to access much development aid.During its 2015 UPR review, the government of Jamaica did not accept that human rights defenders, including LGBTI rights defenders, were under threat, and so took the view that no additional measures are needed to protect human rights defenders or combat LGBTI exclusion.

Peaceful Assembly

The Constitution’s Article 13 also protects the freedom of assembly, with limitations on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited.

The Constitution’s Article 13 also protects the freedom of assembly, with limitations on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited. Permission for assembly must be obtained from the police force and local authorities, who must be assured that assemblies will be within the law. Police forces generally intervene only if a protest blocks traffic or otherwise prevents the movement of people. As well as strikes, unions regularly hold workplace demonstrations. A landmark was achieved in 2015 when the first Pride demonstration was held in Jamaica.

Expression

Article 22 of the Constitution upholds the freedom of expression, with a number of exceptions, including on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that harm the rights and reputations of other or restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited.

Article 22 of the Constitution upholds the freedom of expression, with a number of exceptions, including on the grounds of defence, public safety, public order, public morality and public health, while actions that harm the rights and reputations of other or restrict public officials, police officers or defence force staff are also prohibited. These rights are generally exercised, and there is a range of privately-owned newspapers and radio stations that express a variety of views. Although TV is largely state-owned, it also offers a plurality of viewpoints. There are no limitations on internet access. Jamaica scores highly for the region on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, and there are no recent reports of killings of journalists. There are, however, occasional concerns about critical journalists being harassed during prime ministerial press conferences, and intimidation in periods around elections.Criminal defamation was repealed in 2013. However, there are reports that journalists have continued to practise self-censorship out of fear of being threatened with civil defamation suits by state actors. An access to information law has been in effect since 2004, but is criticised for making broad exceptions that potentially grant excessive scope for the use of discretion by state officials.