Compass won’t apologise

Newspaper will no longer attend LA

The editor and publisher of the
Caymanian Compass have refused to acquiesce to Speaker of the House Mary
Lawrence’s demands for an apology over a story written by journalist Brent
Fuller and one of the newspaper’s editorials.

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

Cayman Free Press Publisher Brian
Uzzell agreed.

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

The incident started when Mrs.
Lawrence read a statement accusing Mr. Fuller and the Compass of “defaming the
integrity of the country’s Legislative Assembly and the integrity of its
honourable members by deliberately planting in the minds of the public the idea
that the persons they have chosen to represent them are not worthy of their
trust and respect…”

Mrs. Chisholm said the article and
editorial did no such thing.

“Brent simply wrote that a
six-member Legislative Assembly subcommittee that was going to review the
Freedom of Information Law behind closed doors rather than in public, which is
exactly what they were planning to do,” she said. “Attorney General Sam Bulgin
was one of his primary sources for the article, and no one is questioning the
accuracy of what was reported, so we’re not sure how anyone could object to
it.”

Mrs. Lawrence banned Mr. Fuller,
who was not present at the time, from attending the Legislative Assembly for
the rest of the week, which ended up amounting to the rest of Thursday because
the House adjourned later that day until January.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller then
picked up the point and brought a motion calling for Mr. Fuller’s privileges to
attend Legislative Assembly be revoked permanently and that he and the
Caymanian Compass be prosecuted for breaches 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.”

Mr. Miller’s motion passed nine
votes to four, with only Premier McKeeva Bush, Minister Mike Adam and
legislators Alden McLaughlin and Ellio Solomon voting against it.

During her address, Mrs. Lawrence
said it was time for her to act “when the free press… begins whittling away
at the root of democracy… defaming the integrity of the country’s Legislative
Assembly”.

Remembering back to the 1980s, Mr.
Uzzell said he found Mrs. Lawrence’s statement ironic. 

“I remember when Mrs. Lawrence was
involved in putting out a weekly newspaper that was harshly critical of the
integrity of certain members of Legislative Assembly,” he said.

Mrs. Lawrence also said that
reporting on the Legislature was a privilege that was awarded by her office and
which could be revoked by her office.

Mr. Uzzell took offense to the
remark.

“In a free society, to report on
what happens in Parliament is a right of the people who elect the representatives
and who pay their salaries,” he said. “We don’t see our role as one of
privilege, but one of service to this community. We use considerable resources
to provide this service, but I won’t have my staff ridiculed and threatened by
politicians and a five-times frustrated politician just because they don’t like
our opinion or a factual article we’ve written.”

Mr. Uzzell said that it appeared
Mrs. Lawrence seemed intent on making the job of reporting on Legislative
Assembly more and more difficult.

“First she cancelled all press
passes of journalists and insisted they file annual register of interest forms,
even though the requirement isn’t supported by Standing Orders,” he said. “Then
she took away journalists’ right to use a Legislative Assembly parking spot
next to the Library. Now this.”

Mr. Uzzell said that as a result of
what happened on Thursday, the Caymanian Compass would no longer send reporters
to attend the Legislative Assembly.

“Not under the current
circumstances and climate,” he said.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I hope the rest of the world is watching this. This is the same country who is asking people to come from other countries and invest here and yet the Parliament is trying to stifle the press. Have they not realised that this will never happen in a democratic society. Good on the Compass for standing its ground on this issue. DO NOT BACK DOWN

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  2. I think it’s time we got some irrevocable and irrefutable freedom of the press happening up in this country… Reporting on the actions of government is not a ‘privilege’ – it’s a necessity.

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  3. TennisAce, I can assure you they are.

    I’ve just sent the link to this story to the major players in worldwide press freedom and my UK contacts.

    My comments are already recorded on this but if it happened in the UK all sides of the world media would be tearing into the government without mercy today.

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  4. I cannot believe what I am reading. It seems that we the people need to quickly take the constitution back to the table and deal with this Freedom of the Press issue.
    May I ask the question is Brent Fuller being attacked because he is an X-pat? If he was Caymanian would you have pursued him so vigorously? I’m Caymanian and I believe in fairness It makes me very angry when X-pats and Caymanians are being taken advantage of by our Government.
    While I am a strong advocate that we should put our people first, this matter is not just about Brent Fuller it is about FREEDOM of speech and the Press period. It’s about the Freedom of the people of the Cayman Islands.
    Caymanians and X-pats we must stand up to this. Mr. Ezzard Miller and the Speaker Mary Lawrence should be ashamed of themselves and I am very surprised at this behavior, I am heartbroken and very disappointed, I expected better of a member that was himself given a SECOND CHANCE!
    Looking at this through eyes of political strategy this course of action against a member of our society by government serves to strengthen the arm of the UDP and weakens the PPM party. At the same time it will without a doubt erode the base of the Independent movement, leaving two parties standing, a strong UDP and a weakened PPM all because of stupidity.
    I sympathize with Mr. Brent Fuller, I’m a Caymanian and I did my part in drafting the new constitution just enacted in 2009. I am not afraid to come up against anyone BECAUSE YOU BOTH ARE WRONG, This time! No, the compass should not apologize, the L.A. is responsible for making reports that are clear, and comprehensive. There seems to have been something missing from the information Mr. Fuller received. Now he must apologize for your short comings, No Brent do not apologize, thank God I finally found ONE MAN that will STAND UP to bullying legislators.
    Kudos Brent, you have my support on this one.

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  5. Ezzard,

    Shame on you. How quickly you forget.
    In the elections people said you should get a Second chance. Well you got your second chance. But I feel pretty sure you got YOUR LAST CHANCE with this kind of dictatorship behavior. McKeeva Bush is not so bad after all. This is just what the UDP needed to take them over the top and back into office in 2013 with no independents to oppose them!

    This was brilliant work on the UDP’s part I must take my hat off to them.

    Ezzard you must look at the sandwich before Taking a BITE!?

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  6. I am very impressed by the preponderance of ‘agree’ over ‘disagree’ on the comments on this and related articles.
    I hope someone on the staff of the Speaker is taking note of this, and making sure she, and all MLAs individually, have copies of the comments.
    Just when we hoped Cayman’s politicians might at last be coming of age, too. Very sad.

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  7. Shall I add that Mr. Ezzard miller may have burned the bridge that brought him into election in 2009.How will he return?!
    He may have also burned the bridge that will get him the signatures needed to stop the Imperado project.

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  8. No Mr. Uzzell… do not refuse to send reporters to Assembly… continue providing the critical service you have been providing (by the way, you could do better!) but in this case… the media… is often all that stands between the people… and … the powers that be. Those powers, as we all know, prefer to do things in secret so they won’t have to be held accountable… for cronyism, bad decisions, self-serving agendas that do more to support themselves as opposed to the needs of the people… and this kind of stuff. They want to do things in the dark, because they know their actions would never pass as positive for the people in the light of the day. So… keep these legislators… keep the issues of this country… IN THE SPOTLIGHT. This country needs an open press more than anything right now… just like it needs responsible leaders truly committed to the nation instead of their own wallets. With all the image problems that already plague our country… these kind of political antics breed further distrust. Poor, poor Mr. Miller… if only your attention span was as large as your ego… you’d understand how pathetic you appear.

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  9. You commenters here are all ignorant, and I must add for the Cayman Compass!

    I support the LA 100% This false journalism which is continually portraying our government in a negative light, has to stop!!! Sorry… but using the word ‘secret’ has shady meaning and interpretations. We are not talking about a WICCA group… we are talking about OUR GOVERNMENT!

    Brent Fuller should be held responsbible for his article! Don’t say he shouldn’t!

    Editor’s note: As to the reader’s comment regarding ‘false journalism’, we are unaware of any claims made by anyone in this matter that this article was factually inaccurate. The Speaker of the House certainly did not make that claim in her speech on Thursday.

    Is the reader suggesting that journalists should be put in jail based on other people’s ‘interpretations’ of their articles?

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Comments are closed.