Letter to the Editor: Compass should not apologise

One problem with the actions of the
Legislative Assembly, and the Speaker, is that there was no problem with either
the original Compass story or its editorial. I have been a publisher, editor,
and reporter for more than 30 years and am hypersensitive to libel and defamation,
and neither of these articles even remotely committed either offense. Most
regular readers of the work of Cayman’s reporters would agree that Brent Fuller
is among the most meticulous, fair, and objective correspondents in the Cayman
press corps.

I take serious issue with the
Speaker’s notion that covering public meetings of the Legislative Assembly is a
privilege, not a right. Collectively the Legislative Assembly is a public body,
elected and paid for by the people. If the doors are open to the public (as
they are), they’re open to the press. Period.

Also, again putting on my editor’s
hat, this story is potentially “nitroglycerin.” My counterparts in
the U.S. media—and the U.S. Government—LOVE stories like this. Elected members
I talk to in Cayman are often concerned about the damage that some news outlets
sometimes do to the Cayman Islands abroad. In my opinion, they pale in comparison
to the potential fallout from these recent House actions, initiated by MLA
Ezzard Miller.

This morning, December 14, Mr.
Miller, appearing on the radio talk show “Crosstalk,” proclaimed that the
Cayman media have repeatedly over the years disparaged the “institutions” of
the Cayman Islands, showing and encouraging among the populace a lack of
“respect.” Does Mr. Miller really believe, as he indicated on the air, that
respect can be legislated, rather than earned?

Additionally, Mr. Miller repeatedly
declared that his role to move toward prosecution of Brent Fuller and The Compass
was, after all, rather inconsequential. He said his contribution was merely to
offer the motion, which might lead to prosecution. He was doing nothing more
than, in his words, “getting things started.”

Years ago when I was covering
police beats, an arsonist who lit the match that led to the conflagration told
me the same thing.

So what is to be done?

For Brian Uzzell, the path is
clear: 1) Continue the “no apology” posture, since there was no
offense, 2) Involve the Governor immediately, since he may need to dust off his
“reserve powers,” 3) Engage the best attorneys and Queen’s Counsel he
can afford to litigate this case without compromise, should it be filed. If he
were to fail to defend his reporter and newspaper vigorously, he might as well
post an “Out of Business” sign on the front door of The Compass.
Knowing Brian Uzzell, I’m confident he will do the right thing.

For the Attorney General, I would
hope (and expect) that this entire matter would simply “die” in his
chambers. He’s too pragmatic a man to pursue this losing issue. I would also
hope he would come out with a public statement to this effect very quickly,
rather than let the matter languish. The longer this issue remains unresolved,
the greater the potential danger for these islands.

In closing, I believe the elected
members who voted for this ill-conceived prosecution will regret following Mr.
Miller over this precipice. They have based their actions on the worst possible
“test case,” and they’ll lose in court (should it come to that). Even
worse, we’ll all lose in the court of public opinion—both on and off the
island.

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