Insisting that the Cayman Islands remain a democratic country with a free
press, Premier McKeeva Bush announced Thursday afternoon his intention to
implement hefty new business fees on various media publications.
Mr. Bush also took a swipe at the
country’s fledgling Freedom of Information Law, following a request by a media
organisation for his travel records since taking office in May 2009.
“The FOI Law, while purporting to
ensure transparency and accountability, costs the country a lot,” Mr. Bush
said. “Requests can literally come from Mickey Mouse. And they call this
At a press conference held Thursday
afternoon, Mr. Bush ran through his travel schedule for each month from June
“Tell me what good is this
question? Everyone knows that I have to travel.”
Mr. Bush said he felt that
individuals making open records requests should at least have to state why they
wanted such information or to what use it would be put. Currently, the FOI Law
makes it illegal for government entities to ask those questions of requesters.
The Premier said that he believed
he started out his term having a good relationship with the country’s press,
but he said recent comments on “the blogs” and “the so-called Net News”
(referring to a local newspaper) were doing the country no good.
“I know as the press, you have a
duty to say things are happening,” Mr. Bush said. “You don’t have a duty to
pound away on people when it’s a personal matter.”
Although no specifics of the plan
were given, Mr. Bush said he intended that news-related businesses, “blogs and
such,” would have to pay a “good, good fee” to operate in the country. It was
believed the fee was to apply to internet-based news services, but the Premier
did not specifically use those words.
He said newspapers printed overseas
for local distribution would also have to pay a “good, good fee”.
“I’m not talking about a $5,000
fee,” he said. “I’m talking over $100,000,” Mr. Bush said, adding that
non-payment of the fees could lead to fines or even jail time.
Read more on this story in next
week’s editions of the Caymanian Compass…