Government administrations have pledged to maintain open relations with the press. However, media professionals feel there is a certain lack of transparency, even though technology has facilitated transmission.
The media is very polarised, making the coverage of political news or criminal cases controversial. When covering news, journalists generally show their allegiance to one of the two major political parties. The main non-partisan newspapers are Amandala and The Reporter. Channel 5 and Channel 7 are the two most-watched television networks.
Belize is a multi-party parliamentary monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth. The prime minister is the head of government and the governor general is the head of state who represents the British monarch. The country has enjoyed a fairly stable political life for four decades, with the two main political parties alternating their time in power fairly regularly. Crime and politics, widely covered in the media, are often sources of contention between the media and the government. Officials regularly accuse the media of jeopardising the country’s major economic engine, tourism, by resorting to “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.
With no daily newspapers, the pool of media outlets is small, and of those considered mainstream, some are supportive of political parties, even when privately owned. Independent media are scarce and access to funding is difficult. Most of the advertising funds that media publishers rely on come from the government and their distribution are often dependent on the party in power.
Formerly British Honduras, Belize gained independence in 1981. The country is relatively sparsely populated, with just over more 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.