Clergy to sit on censorship board

An amendment to the Cinematograph Law passed in Legislative Assembly Wednesday mandates that a minister of religion sit on the five-member board provided for in the law.

Formerly the Cinematograph Authority, which was really nothing more than a five member board, consisted of the governor as chairman, three elected members of the Legislative Assembly and one member nominated annually by the Governor.

In introducing the amending bill, Minister of Communication Arden McLean said the Cabinet will now appoint the Cinematograph Board.

‘The Governor [Stuart Jack] agrees the chairmanship should not be held by the governor,’ he said. ‘The governor has been consulted and he agrees with these changes.’

Mr. McLean said he had discussed the matter with Members of the Legislative Assembly and they also agreed; in fact, no other member of the House offered any debate on the bill and it passed unanimously.

In addition to regulating and granting licences to people or entities wishing to conduct cinematographic exhibitions, the Cinematograph Board has the ability to instigate a prosecution of any exhibitions of pictures or sound effects it deems to be of a ‘blasphemous, seditions or obscene nature’. An exhibition is deemed to be of an obscene nature under the law ‘if its effect taken as a whole is such as to deprave and corrupt persons who have seen it or who are likely, having regard to all the circumstances, to see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.’

Those guilty of offences under the law are liable on summary conviction to a fine of $100 and to imprisonment for six months.

However, the Cinematographic Board can, through a proscribed process, have films seized – and possibly forfeited – if they are deemed to be of a blasphemous, seditious or obscene nature.

Criticism of Caymanian Compass

Speaking after tabling the bill, Mr. McLean criticised an editorial that appeared in the 15 May edition of the Caymanian Compass.

That editorial questioned the wisdom transferring censorship powers to ‘appointees who owe their position to elected officials’. The editorial also suggested those appointees would essentially be free to make decisions to censor films that politicians would dare not make because of potential public backlash.

Mr. McLean disagreed with the editorial and pointed out that censorship is done everywhere in the world by a regulatory body. He also pointed out that the People’s Progressive Movement does not agree with having MLAs sit on any government boards.

‘I just do not see any need not to make this board the same as others,’ he said with regard to how it should be constituted.

‘People take seriously their appointments on these boards, whether they are political or otherwise,’ he said. ‘It is disrespectful to say people don’t have a mind of their own.’

Mr. McLean said the work of the Cinematographic Board was all about peers expressing their concerns and making representations about what they want and what the people of the country wanted.