McKeeva Bush announced last Thursday that, as part of the new revenue measures,
he intends to charge six-figure licence fees to news blogs and newspapers
announcement came after Mr. Bush expressed his frustrations at certain segments
of the media for the publishing of what he said were inaccurate and libelous
reports, insensitive hate-fostering letters, and for submitting frivolous
questions under the Freedom of Information Law.
share Mr. Bush’s frustrations, for we sometimes find ourselves at a competitive
disadvantage for practising responsible journalism, we disagree with the
premier’s method of dealing with cases of irresponsible journalism, if that is
indeed what has happened. Trying to price a media entity out of existence with
high fees is a blatant attempt to halt free speech, and this needs to be
media also needs to be responsible, and if any particular member is not, it
should be held accountable.
If, as Mr.
Bush suggested, a certain media member is allowing anonymous members of the
public to accuse elected government officials of crimes, then there are laws
against this and the police need to enforce these laws.
There are also
civil laws governing libel, although the cost of pursuing these actions are
prohibitive, especially if the entity being sued is not likely to be able to
pay a court-ordered award. With the pervasiveness of Internet blogging and
self-publishing, more and more people are writing for the public without any
training about ethical, responsible and legal journalism. As a result, issues
of defamation of character and libel are likely to become more prevalent in the
future. Perhaps the government should look at amending the legislation governing
libel to make a remedy more accessible for all residents of the Cayman Islands.
Freedom of speech is an essential element of a democratic
society and the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water because of
specific cases of irresponsible journalism, if that is what is happening. We
call on Mr. Bush to rethink his approach and find a different, and appropriate,
remedy to the problem.