7 News Belize

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day – a day on which we reflect not only on the important role of the press, but also on the security with which they should be able to operate.

In Belize, journalists generally operate without fear, but do they operate with goodwill? While we rank 54 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders Security Index – with 180 being the lowest – the 2022 US Human Rights Practices report states that media outlets are using self-censorship to appease politicians and powerful business people.

The media asked a politician, Minister Kareem Musa, what he thought of this report.

Kareem Musa, Minister of the Interior

“I think we have enjoyed a tremendous level of press freedom in Belize. Of course, I would like to see us even higher on that list. But ultimately, our accessibility as ministers, your ability to spin stories any way you want without being censored, without being censored at all, speaks volumes about our country’s respect for the press.”

“And like I said, hopefully we can only move up that list.”

News reporter

“By saying that, certain media houses are practicing self-censorship to appease certain politicians.”

Kareem Musa, Minister of the Interior

“Well, you’d have to ask certain members of the media, not me. I don’t know if your media does that. If they do, you should ask the various media houses and their directors.”

News reporter

“Is it something you might have noticed while you were in…?”

Kareem Musa, Minister of the Interior

‘Absolutely not. I notice that every media house in this country is critical of any government.”

“And so I don’t think there is a party connection. I guess in the 1990s you might have said that certain media houses like Channel 7 sided with the UDP. But ultimately I thought they were very critical of the UDP. Barrow Administration towards the end.”

‘But in the end I think everyone gives a very balanced opinion. I may not agree with certain variations, Courtney, but that’s just the way it is.”

News reporter

“Sir, however, do you think your government is making itself accessible to the media and not trying to undermine our jobs?”

Kareem Musa, Minister of the Interior

“I think so. I would say so. I think as a minister I am quite accessible. I think I see myself too much in your news broadcast. And if you could reduce that, I would appreciate it.”

News director says GOB disdains the press

But while Minister Musa says PUP politicians are accessible, our news director here at Channel 7 disagrees. Jules Vasquez explained that while journalists enjoy freedom of the press here in Belize, government officials have consistently avoided, undermined and blocked them.

Shyne says mainland China should help strengthen Belize’s military

And – like his predecessors when they were in opposition – Shyne Barrow knows all about press conferences. He holds very regular press conferences to talk about a whole range of national issues, as you have seen this evening.

Today he added one from the far left. While talking about the Sarstoon situation with Guatemala, he raised the idea that the mainland would strengthen the Belizean military:

Shyne Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“When it comes to the Sarstoon, we do not expect our generals and soldiers to commit suicide. And I will not be irresponsible under any circumstances, as the People’s United Party was in opposition. When the United Democratic Party was founded, responsible and protested through diplomatic channels and tried to handle this situation in the most appropriate way, which would be through diplomacy. Because of course, until we make a change in policy, which is something I think we should consider, instead of Taiwan giving the people their responsibility. With money from the United Party to buy elections and do various things that could interfere with our democracy, maybe we should ask the Taiwanese or possibly the Chinese, the People’s Republic of China, if they would be a switch.”

“Maybe we should ask for military investments. Maybe we should strengthen our military because while I agree that we are a peaceful nation, we are a nation that wants to live in harmony with our neighbors, but life is real.”

“We have to protect ourselves. We must defend our territorial integrity, whether it is against elements such as the narcos or the Guatemalans and their baseless claims and their bullish behavior.”