Belize Advocates for ‘Freedom of the Press’ Inclusion in Constitution

Belize Advocates for ‘Freedom of the Press’ Inclusion in Constitution

“Freedom of the Press” – it is a phrase that has been tossed about time and time again, but one that holds no weight in Belize’s Constitution.  Currently, there is an advocacy for this to change, with the support of several elected officials, including Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca.  The Briceno Administration has embarked on a reform of the constitution that is being undertaken by the People’s Constitution Commission (PCC). During one of the PCC’s Consultations, media representatives were engaged in the discussion of including the press in the constitution.  Fonseca noted that the media should continue pushing for inclusion, and full recognition of the press corp. 

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education: “I think the press is absolutely fundamental to our democracy. It’s fundamental in my view to the rule of law. The press has historically always acted as a check and balance on power. That’s the whole purpose and objective of the press. So even though even when we get irritated by questions, and over the 20 years I have been asked a lot of irritating questions, I still understand and appreciate the absolute importance of a functioning strong press. So I certainly hope that you know when the People’s Commission, Constitutional Commission completes its work, that as a part of their recommendations, and of course these things have to come from the people, so I hope the press is doing its work and getting your representatives to advance this issue. I hope that at the end of when that report is produced that that will be one of the recommendations. And I certainly will be very, very happy to support that recommendation. You know I think all politicians, public officials should understand and recognize that that is a part of your job, that is a part of your responsibility to the people and the press is providing you with an opportunity to engage directly with the Belizean people. We are elected by the people. We are accountable to the people and this is a part of holding us accountable. So, you know, I don’t know that will be effective, but I’m happy that that’s part of the discussion. That has to be part of the discussion. But let’s see what comes out of the constitutional reform process.”

Interestingly, while the press is excluded from the constitution, Freedom House, an international agency, has scored Belize with 86 percent on Freedom of the Press.  What is even more interesting is that the 2023 report states that the constitution guaranteed freedom of the press.  It continued to state that while reporting generally covers a wide range of viewpoints in practice, journalists sometimes face threats, physical harassment, or assault in the course of their work.

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