Today’s Editorial for March 21: The problem of the Internet

Before anyone starts doubting, let
us state that the Caymanian Compass is a full supporter of freedom of speech
and freedom of the press; in all its forms, in all countries on Earth.

We have proved this numerous times,
standing up for journalism and speech rights; even when other media outlets ran
away to hide from the issues.

The problem with any discussion
about “rights” is that people rarely talk about the other side of coin, that
being responsibilities.

The free press has a responsibility
to be fair in reporting the news of the day. Those outlets also have a right to
express their own views on various subjects, as long as those views are kept
separate from the news reports.

While some may argue there is a
need for greater checks and balances on the media in Cayman via a press
association or even a government-appointed body, we would point out that all
media entities in the Islands are subject to consequences if they forget their
responsibilities while exercising their rights. Among these instruments of
consequence are libel laws, which even make defamation a criminal offence in
Cayman, although that is no longer the case in many Western countries.

Within the past two decades a
number of new forms of communication have blossomed, allowing people to
transmit and view information at a rate that was unthinkable a mere generation
ago. This can only be a good thing when it comes to free expression.

However, there is a problem to be
dealt with and we’re not quite sure what the answer is: What if the new forms
of communication don’t adhere to the same responsibilities as the established
ones?

And if that happens, what is the
method that individuals who are defamed have for redress in the digital age,
when their libellers are anywhere in the world transmitting information from a
point that in most cases can’t even be detected?

Presuming the answer to that last
question is “none at all”, are we then to assume that someone’s personal
reputation is simply a casualty of the Information Age?

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