Premier hits out at FOI, press

 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 proposing to ensure accountability and transparency, costs this
country a lot,” Mr. Bush said. “Requests can literally come from Mickey Mouse.
And they call this progress.”

At
a press conference held Thursday afternoon, Mr. Bush ran through his travel
schedule for each month from June 2009 onward.

“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…

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