Open Letter to Ms. Lawrence

22 December 2010

The Honourable Ms. Lawrence, We, the undersigned civil society organisations
and individuals from around the world, are writing to express our serious
concern over the 9 December 2010 decision by the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman
Islands to revoke the privileges of Mr. Brent Fuller, a journalist with the Caymanian Compass, to attend the Legislative Assembly for one week.

We are further concerned that the Assembly also adopted a Motion to
request the Attorney General to prosecute Fuller and the Caymanian Compass for breaches of the Immunities, Powers and Privileges Law. [1]

 We understand that these decisions
are based on a report by Fuller published in the Compass earlier that week about
plans for a subcommittee of the Assembly to meet in secret to revise the
Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law, and an editorial postulating that somehow
the WikiLeaks saga might be used as an excuse to undermine the law.[2]

Local news reports have claimed that as Speaker, you stated that these
articles have impugned “the integrity of the members of the legislature” and
that reporting on theLegislative Assembly is “a privilege, not a right”.

We believe that both the revocation of privileges and the call for
prosecution represent a breach of Fuller’s right to freedom of expression as protected
under both international law (see, for example, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and section 11 of the Cayman Islands Constitution
Order 2009. The articles consist of legitimate comment on the Legislative Assembly,
a key public body in the Cayman Islands. We believe that the right to engage in
criticism of elected bodies, even of a trenchant or unreasonable nature, is central
to a democracy. [3]

The Attorney General issued a statement on Monday, 20 December 2010,
saying that no prosecutions would be instituted. We welcome this but note that
the Motion passed by the Legislative Assembly is still likely to exert a chilling
effect on local coverage of this important public body.

As advocates of openness, we also believe that it is inappropriate for
the legislature to conduct discussions regarding reform of an access to information
law in secret.

International good practice dictates that such meetings should be
conducted in the open and that any committee reviewing such a law should
provide as much opportunity as possible for public input. Secrecy would have to
be justified with specific reasons by the chairman of such a committee.

We therefore call on you, as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, to
take such measures as may be appropriate to ensure free reporting on the
Assembly, including by repealing the motion suspending
Mr. Fuller and calling for him to be prosecuted. We also call on you to use
your influence to ensure that legislative discussions about reform of the
Freedom of Information

Law are held in public, absent clear grounds for secrecy.

Yours sincerely,

Organisations

•
5th Pillar, India (Vijay Anand, President)

•
Access Info Europe, Spain (Helen Darbishire,
Executive Director)

•
African Network of Constitutional Lawyers
(Fatima Diallo)

•
Arab Freedom of Information Network (Said
Essoulami, President)

•
ARTICLE 19, United Kingdom (David Banisar,
Senior Legal Counsel)

•
Campaign for Freedom of Information,
United Kingdom (Maurice Frankel, Director)

•
Center for Independent Journalism, Romania
(Ioana Avadani,Executive Director)

•
Centre for Law and Democracy, Canada (Toby
Mendel, Executive Director)

•
Egyptians Against Corruption (Engi El
Haddad and Bothaina Kamel)

•
Jamaicans For Justice (Carolyn Gomes,
Executive Director)

•
Movement for Freedom of Information in
Israel (Roy Peled, Director)

•
Observatorio de la Vigilancia Social
(OBSERVA), Peru (Ricardo Corcuera Molina)

•
Qualicidade Institute, Brazil (Fernando Di
Lascio, President)

•
Rainbow Warriors Core Foundation, Aruba
(Milton Ponson, President)

•
Romanian Helsinki Committee (APADOR‐CH)
(Diana‐Olivia Hatneanu, Executive

Director)

•
South African History Archive (Gabriella
Razzano, Support Officer)

•
Suma Ciudadana, Peru (Javier Casas,
President)

•
Transparency International Ireland (John Devitt,
Chief Executive)

•
Zero Corruption Coalition, Nigeria
(Babatunde Oluajo, National Secretary)

Individuals

•
de Silva, Lalanath, Sri Lanka (Environmental
Lawyer)

•
Excell, Carole, Cayman Islands (Attorney
at Law)

•
Goldberg, David, Scotland (Information
Rights Campaigner)

•
Magro, Maíra, Brazil (Journalist)

•
Youm, Kyu Ho, United States (Jonathan
Marshall First Amendment Chair, University of

Oregon)

•
Zubaidy, Elina, Bangladesh (Advocate
Bangladesh Supreme Court)

[1] Section 18(2) of the Act makes it an offence to “falsely or
scandalously defames the Assembly or any committee”, and is punishable by an
$800 fine and imprisonment of 12 months. [2]

 The report is available at: http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2010/12/08/Closed‐door‐FOIreview‐

set/, and the editorial is available at:

http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2010/12/08/Editorial‐for‐December‐8‐‐On‐WikiLeaks/.

[3] In 1993, the UK House of Lords ruled that elected bodies could not
maintain a suit in defamation, in part because they need to be open to
criticism. See Derbyshire County Council
v. Times Newspapers Ltd.
, [1993] 1

All ER 1011. It is also clear that, at least under international law,
legislatures do not have unfettered

discretion to make decisions about access by journalists. In Gauthier v Canada, 7 April 1999, Communication

No. 633/1995, the UN Human Rights Committee made it clear that decisions
that affect reporting of parliament must be “specific, fair and reasonable and
their application should be transparent

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