There was an important case heard in Grand Court this week concerning allegations of censorship by the Chief Immigration Officer.
Late last year, the CIO refused to grant temporary work permits for the band Bounty Killer, citing the controversial nature of the group’s stage act and song lyrics.
Although internationally popular with certain audiences, Bounty Killer has some very violent lyrics, some of which are homophobic in nature.
When it comes to determining what is socially acceptable by Cayman’s standards, most forms of entertainment are regulated by a governmental body empowered by statutes.
The Information and Communications Technology Authority regulates radio and television broadcasts.
The Cinematographic Authority regulates the films that are allowed to shown.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police have the ultimate authority, based on obscenity laws, to regulate what is written, said or done in the Cayman Islands.
However, when it comes to determining the suitability of live stage acts coming from overseas, the buck stops with the Chief Immigration Officer.
The position of CIO comes with many responsibilities as it is. In this time of dozens of illegal Cuban immigrants, hundreds of overstayers and thousands of temporary work permit applications, the position certainly doesn’t need to be burdened with the chore of acting as arbiter of community standards with regard to entertainment.
As a practice, the CIO has been asking the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association for its recommendations on visiting performers.
However, it was pointed out in court this week that this practice is flawed for two reasons: CMEA is a non-governmental body; and there is an inherent potential conflict of interest for recommend foreign entertainers.
Evaluating which entertainers are suitable for the Cayman Islands based on the criteria of morality and decency is a government policy decision.
If there is to be someone that is to evaluate which entertainers can come and which cannot, it needs to be a body that has a government mandate and statutory authority to do so.
Perhaps the Cinematographic Authority, which the government has said it was revamping in any case, could be broadened to include live stage acts and other forms of art under its review.
Regardless of how entertainment regulation is done, the Government should tread very lightly into the realm of censorship.
The should also remember that there were probably as many people hear opposed to bands such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin back in the ’60s as there are opposed to Bounty Killer today.