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
“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
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
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
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
“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.