Compass stands by its reporter

The
editor and publisher of the Caymanian Compass have stood behind reporter Brent
Fuller, who was targeted by Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence and legislators
in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.

The
Speaker and legislators were angered by a front-page story in Wednesday’s
Caymanian Compass written by Mr. Fuller and an editorial that appeared in the
newspaper the same day.

After
Mrs. Lawrence suspended Mr. Fuller for the rest of the week, North Side MLA
Ezzard Miller brought a motion not only calling for the permanent revocation of
Mr. Fuller’s right to attend Legislative Assembly, but recommending he and the
newspaper be prosecuted. That motion passed, nine votes to four.

Mrs.
Lawrence called for Mr. Fuller to apologise for the article and the editorial.

Compass
Editor Tammie Chisholm said that would not happen.

“We
have nothing to apologise for,” said Mrs. Chisholm. “Brent was just doing his
job and the editorial was expressing this newspaper’s opinion.”

Mr.
Miller’s motion claimed the article and editorial breached to the Legislative
Assembly (Immunities, Powers and Privileges) Law. Sections of that law make it
a crime to “falsely or scandalously” defame the Legislative Assembly or any of
it committees; to publish any writing containing “a gross, wilful or scandalous
misrepresentation” of the proceedings of Assembly or one of its committees; to
publish any writing containing “false or scandalous libel”; or to publish a
report or statement :purporting to be a report of the proceedings of the assembly
in any case where such proceedings have been conducted after exclusion of the
public by order of the Assembly”.

Mrs.
Chisholm said neither the article written by Mr. Fuller nor the editorial ran
afoul of the law.

“Apparently,
the legislators do not like that we used the word ‘secret’,” she said. “Whether
we used the word ‘secret’ or the phrases ‘in camera’ or ‘behind closed doors’
it all means the same thing. We stand by what was written.”

Cayman
Free Press publisher Brian Uzzell also said he was standing behind Mr. Fuller
and the Compass editorial team.

“It
is a dark day for the Cayman Islands when legislators decide to prosecute responsible
media because they disagree with their opinion,” he said. “What transpired in
the Legislative Assembly on Thursday should embarrass and frighten the people
of this country.”

Mr.
Uzzell said he was going to consider the newspaper’s response to Mrs. Lawrence
and the motion over the weekend. For details of that response, see Monday’s
edition of the Caymanian Compass.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. This is a democracy not a dictatorship. A newspaper is all about expressing opinions and freedom of speech. How dare the Legislative Assembly try a muzzle the press. Mr Uzzell is 100% right, ‘it is a dark day for the Cayman Islands when legislators decide to prosecute responsible media because they disagree with their opinion.’

    Long live freedom of speech!!

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  2. The speaker is quoted as stating that reporting on the Legislative Assembly was a "privilege, not a right… It is a privilege that is awarded by my office and which can be revoked by my office".

    I have worked in a number of Eastern European and Third World countries where the government controlled the media and stifled a free press, so that phrase sounds disturbingly familar.

    Excluding the press from any public assembly is a dangerous road to go down and an act which tends to be the first step in a wider suspension of democracy.

    There’s a huge difference between challenging a government’s unreasonable decision to keep material that is clearly of great public interest secret, as happened in this case, and defaming the LA.

    It’s not the actions of the Compass that need to be examined but those of elected representatives, who seem to be indicating their willingness to engage in activities that they would prefer the electorate to remain ignorant of, and that’s a job the Governor should be addressing before this goes any further.

    This move is clearly in breach of ECHR Article 10, Article 19 of UDHR and the terms of ICCPR. All of which reflects a decidedly questionable attitude within the LA towards human rights and transparency in government, illustrating the validity of the decision to publish the original story and editorial.

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  3. Well done, Editor and Publisher!
    What timorous mice these MLAs are, that they fear the exposure of their machinations, and the possibility that the people (who are, when the time comes, voters) be rightly able to see what they are up to.
    These are not the stuff of future National Heroes.

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  4. What an alarming thing to see happening in Cayman! I would have expected better of people who at least at one time, valued freedom. Now it seems that the ruling party only wants glowing reports of their exploits published. God forbid if something negative is put into print. It is alarming when the press is threatened like this because this is the way Communist countries rule. Caymanians had better decide quickly if they want a Communist, dictatorship style government or a Democracy.

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  5. There’s something very strange and sinister going on in the Cayman Islands.

    The majority of the local population have been scared into ignorance and non-involvement for a long time now and are led like so many lambs to the slaughter.

    The authorities in the Cayman Islands are now violating almost every established human rights law that they are supposedly obliged to be abiding by and the Queen’s representative, Governor Duncan Taylor is noticeably silent and invisible.

    It really looks as if the United Kingdom are standing back and letting the Cayman Island go its own way and for sure, there are some in England who would say "the quicker, the better" but the people of the Cayman Islands cannot continue to sit down silently while their democracy is being stolen from them.

    Anyone who judges the Cayman Islands as a democracy are way off target; having the vote does not make a country a democracy and the Cayman Islands has never been a democracy in the truest sense of the word.

    I feel sympathy for the people in Cayman who will never know a full day of true freedom in their lives before even the little that they did have is being taken away.

    If anyone believes that an independent Cayman will not be the next Cuba in the Caribbean, let them think again.

    For all intents and purposes, it almost already is !

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  6. Keep up the good fight Cayman Free Press. It seems that some people believe there is already a dictatorship, this comment, posted against the CNS top web story, highlighting the very thing your organisation is trying to fight against:

    Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/10/2010 – 16:17.

    What will surprise me is if Big Mac takes on these law firms that means he will again have my admiration and may be even my support he has got to prove us all wrong that he CAN AND WILL INDEED TO THIS!

    COME ON MCKEEVA SHOW YOUR POWER

    Use your dictatorship powers and MAKE THESE LAW FIRMS HIRE OUR PRECIOUS LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES. Don’t let them throw our children to the dogs!

    ………….

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  7. Perhaps Mary Lawrence’s job title should be changed.

    ‘Speaker’ is a little too suggestive of the free and frank exchange of views that she appears to dislike.

    Can I suggest that her job be redesignated as ‘Commissar’ ?

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