Successive governments have maintained generally open relations with the press, keeping public information easily accessible. But this enviable situation has deteriorated in recent years.
Media are heavily polarised, making any coverage of political news or criminal cases controversial. In covering news, journalists generally show their allegiance to either of the two major political parties. The three major newspapers are Amandala, The Belize Times and The Guardian. Channel 5 and Channel 7 are the two most-watched television networks.
Belize is a parliamentary, multi-party monarchy, and a member of the Commonwealth. The prime minister is the head of state. The country has enjoyed a fairly stable political life for four decades, with the two main political parties generally alternating their time in power fairly regularly. Crime and politics, heavily covered in the media, are often sources of discord between the media and the government. Officials regularly accuse the media of jeopardising the country’s major economic engine, tourism, by employing “sensationalism” on these topics.
Overly critical journalists, and ordinary citizens, must turn to the legal system for satisfactory resolution of conflicts. The legal process can be long and costly.
Internet access in Belize is among the slowest and most expensive in the Caribbean, due to inadequate infrastructure.
Formerly British Honduras, Belize gained independence in 1981. The country is fairly sparsely populated, with less than 400,000 inhabitants, but it has one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the world. Criminal affairs and political life are the two subjects most covered by the media.
Journalists are occasionally threatened, intimidated or harassed.