Today’s Editorial October 28: Freedom of press?

We’ve had quite enough of the negative remarks launched at the Caymanian Compass for breaking the story on visas for Jamaicans coming to this country.

We learned of the story by listening to a large segment of this society – the Jamaican community.

They had heard word of the proposed visas from their family and friends in Jamaica.

It is a very important issue and one that deserved every bit of attention we gave it.

This paper will not wait passively by for Government to issue press releases and statements on important issues before doing a story.

Our job is to keep to the public informed with known facts. It’s plain and simple.

Government got into power in part by promising transparency. Where is the transparency when it refuses to discuss a major issue such as visa implementation?

It was noted in a press conference Wednesday that the Compass didn’t confer with Government before we ran the first story on the visa issue. It is not our job to get Government approval before we run any story. We did try to get information from Government officials, but they wouldn’t talk.

Government officials have said they were shocked that we had the audacity to run the story. They were shocked that Honorary Jamaican Consulate Robert Hamaty would speak to us on the matter.

They were also shocked that Jamaican newspapers would run a similar story and that members of the Jamaican government apparently spoke to the media.

Frankly we’re shocked that Government would expect us to stick our heads in the sands of Seven Mile Beach and ignore an issue that is facing a large part of this society.

We will not apologize for doing the story.

Officials at Wednesday’s press conference said they held the briefing to set the record straight.

And they did. We all now know that come Tuesday anyone from Jamaica planning to travel to the Cayman Islands will have to have a visa.

Mr. Donovan Ebanks stressed that there had been nothing underhanded about the Government not commenting on the visa issue and pointed out that countries, world-wide, normally made such an announcement at the same time as implementing this type of regulation. Many of us have lived in and come from other countries.

It is normal practice to announce a visa implementation before it is actually made law as a respectful gesture to the nationalities the visas will affect.

There is talk of implementation of a Freedom of Information law. We would hope that those who are drafting the law would look to the press and public for input.

If this Government is sincere about transparency and freedom of information, it needs to quit talking the talk and start walking the walk.

Our job is to present the facts. It is the public’s job to take those facts and form opinion. It is not the Government’s job to tell us all what our opinions should be or when we should publish the facts.

Those in Government are elected. They are supposed to work for us all. Keeping information close to their vest and not keeping the public informed doesn’t do anyone any good.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

We will continue to do our job. We would hope that Government would rally behind us and encourage open and honest debate on all subjects.

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