Press needs to be responsible

So I guess your editor thinks –
“we’ll tell him”, and you have! But are you correct? No you’re not!

There is nothing in the law which
prohibits neither civil servant nor politician from making public, information
on a question asked of the Information Office about Government’s administration.

In fact – because of an
irresponsible press corps – which in my opinion doesn’t care about the country
and how we are made to look by their type of reporting – it is my intention to
make public the answer to any question my office receives if it is in the best
interest of the public to do so.

Sorry but your exaggerated statement
about the civil service’s future handling of Freedom of Information requests is
plain nonsense. I cannot agree with these comments made in your editorial which
imply that civil servants will be less likely to comply with the FOI law as a result
of statements which I have made describing the challenge we are having in our
democracy without a responsible and fair press.

I expect all Public Servants to
fully comply with the FOI Law to the best of their abilities and within the
parameters of that law.  To suggest that public servants will not comply
with the law because of my concerns about fair press is unfounded.  While
there have been some challenges with the implementing of this new and important
piece of legislation, the overwhelming majority of public servants have been
doing their part to respond to FOI requests, at great cost, monetarily and otherwise.
As far as I know requests, even controversial ones, have been dealt with under
the law.

For example, one local newspaper
printed the entire Memorandum of Understanding between the Cayman Islands Government
and the Shetty Hospital.  We have nothing to hide.

My concern remains that the
information that is being reported by the press, even under FOI, is not being
treated fairly and responsibly. 

Are we receiving balanced
viewpoints, or is information being skewed or colored for whatever reason? 

It is something I feel passionate
about, knowing full well the importance of fair and accurate reporting. My
colleagues and I, public servants and leaders in the private sector have had to
respond to questions and inquiries from around the globe, far too often as a
result of irresponsible, inaccurate and unfair journalism.  In some cases
these inaccurate reports were produced even when the individuals and reporters
making the reports had additional information and conveniently chose not to
include it.

For example, in the much discussed
recent FOI request about my travel, my Ministry included additional information
which went beyond what was requested but remained within the same
context.  This was to ensure that the requestor was informed about
additional overseas conferences and meetings which I was expected to attend
either in my capacity as premier, minister of finance, tourism and development
or under my delegated authority for regional international affairs.  However,
the requestor chose not to mention this relevant information anywhere in their
actual news reports which described the information that they had received from
the ministry. 

There is almost a one-sided
argument about free press (which we all agree is a fundamental part of a
healthy democracy), yet few ever talk about fair press.  I don’t expect to be liked, especially by
all members of the media corps.  People have their personal preferences
and I respect that.  What is difficult to turn a blind eye to is the
deliberate twisting or withholding of correct information – not so much about
me personally, but most importantly about the country.

And while all civil servants will
continue to respond to FOI requests, the media should demonstrate the highest
standards of journalism by resisting the temptation to take that information
and portray it in a way that suits them.  This has nothing to do with me
not liking the articles you write.  I didn’t put myself forward for this
job to gain friends.  But if you report fair and accurate information and
provide balanced views which you as news agencies should not leave up to
callers and anonymous bloggers to do, then you are doing your job in an ethical
and responsible manner. 

And though I might not personally
enjoy what and how you are reporting, if it is done in the right way, then the
country is truly uplifted and our democracy benefits, I don’t have an argument
with you.

After observing how most of the
press corps operates, it is my opinion that most of you are not here because you
love Cayman, and when this country suffers more and more – you will then leave
us in the lurch.

I asked you all to police
yourselves by forming an association so you can discipline yourselves – did
you? Would you?

It is time you all be more
considerate of this country!

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