Today’s Editorial for February 10: With freedom comes responsibilities

In a democratic society, the press
plays a vital role in not only keeping the public informed, but also in
facilitating and stimulating open dialogue.

However, with freedoms come
responsibilities and the same holds true for freedom of the press and freedom
of expression.

To this idea, there is a relatively
new form of freedom of expression in the Cayman Islands, namely on-line blogs
and forums.

Unlike the traditional media, these
forms of cyber media often play by their own rules, rather than the generally accepted
code of journalism ethics.

Some blogs and many forum posts are
often written by people hiding behind a veil of anonymity, allowing them to
express views with impunity.

One on-line readers’ forum here
bans what it considers libellous, but allows comments – written anonymously  – that call other posters names or are  harshly insulting to specific groups of
people. Many of the posts are anti-Caymanian or anti-expatriate in nature, and
it therefore foments a widening of Cayman’s existing social divide.

Don’t misunderstand us; everyone is
entitled to their own opinion, and they are also entitled to express that
opinion as long as it doesn’t libel or wrongly defame another person.  However, we do believe that responsible media
practices dictate that people should not be able to sling insulting prejudices
anonymously under the guise of freedom of expression.

With the launch of the new
caycompass.com website last month, we have included a section for commenting on
stories.  However, we require readers to
register before they can comment, even though they can comment with an alias if
they choose.   We also vet all comments
before they are posted to ensure they are not libellous or unduly insulting or
inflammatory. Although this entails an amount of subjective censorship on our
part, we believe this is the responsible thing to do.

We may never get as many comments
as forums that allow complete anonymity, but we hope that over time, we will
foster constructive open dialogue, the type of which it is a role of the press
to promote.

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