Premier McKeeva Bush called for the
journalists of the Cayman Islands to incorporate a code of ethics, saying some
media houses were attacking him, the government and the civil service.
Mr. Bush presented a copy of a bill
drawn up by the Bermuda government called the Media Council Act 2010, which was
not put into law because the media in Bermuda agreed to form its own
self-regulated council. He also presented a code of practice, based on the
British Press Complaints Commission, adopted by the larger media companies in
Bermuda which will form the council.
“This should be a guide for them
which incorporates a code of ethics for journalists and the media,” Mr. Bush
He said he paid “particular
attention to what the media does, because if left alone, the media would
continue to mislead and befuddle the people who look, read or listen.”
In a statement he read in the
Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, Mr. Bush also revealed that he intended to
organise an annual media awards ceremony to show appreciation for members of
the press who deserved it.
Mr. Bush said that from his first
week in government last year, he has urged the media in Cayman to form a press
association which would “offer them a code of ethics and give discipline to its
In his statement, read to the
Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning, Mr. Bush said: “What strikes me most
is the manner in which reports are made. Most times in their attack, they
challenge the ability, the honesty, and sincerity of either elected officials
or civil servants. This is done in expressions on faces, in writing, in the
sarcasm of their voices, and in their responses, and it makes clear their sharp
Specifically naming the Caymanian
Compass, Cayman News Service, CITN and Rooster, Mr. Bush said the media should
not be “the other political party” and that he must defend himself against
He queried where reporters in
Cayman came from and what their qualifications and politics were.
Mr. Bush said the Cayman Islands
was being “watched internationally every minute, and when issues, cases, or any
other happenings here are headlined, blown up or taken out of context, it
damages these islands”, saying that he and other politicians have had to
respond to international queries about “distortions in Cayman’s media reports”.
He cited a case in which a picture
appeared on the internet of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s house,
accompanied by the question “Who does this house belong to?”, followed by the
answer, “This is the Cayman Islands and it belongs to the Premier.” He did not
say where the photograph had appeared, but described this incident as “the type
of reporting [that] does nothing to benefit our country and only set out to
spread scandalous rumours”.
He criticised the Caymanian Compass
for using the word “tirade” in a story about earlier criticisms he directed at
the media in the House, saying each member had the right to speak passionately
in the Legislative Assembly on any matter as long as they abide by the rules
and are relevant to the matter at hand.
“I will continue to speak
passionately against the wrongs that are being done by some in the media,” Mr.
He also criticised radio talk-show
hosts for cutting off people who had an “opposite opinion to them and shut
people out when they figure that caller could rebut them”.
In his statement, Mr. Bush said
that British Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not have to contend with a
“gaggle of commentators raising doubts about whether he was reading the public
right” when he rallied public support against Adolf Hitler.
Referring to the media, Mr. Bush
said: “They are challenged to turn their critical powers on themselves. They
are challenged to direct their energy, talent and conviction towards improving
the quality and objectivity of news presentations. They are challenged to
structure their own ethics to reflect their great freedom, with their great
The International Press Institute described the Media Council Act 2010, which
was tabled in Bermuda’s House of Assembly on 7 May, as “deeply flawed” and “a
controversial media bill that appears to have more in common with the media
legislation of some of the repressive governments in Latin America, than with
the First Amendment tradition of one of its close trading partners, the United
Media houses in Bermuda in May
released a joint statement pledging to put in place a self-regulated media
council by September this year.