Editorial for 25 August: Discrimination against media

 

We at the Caymanian Compass sometimes feel
our judges are attempting the legal equivalent of repairing the Large Hadron
Collider with a pocket wrench.

Prosecutors in a particular trial noted
this week that comments on the social media site Facebook were being made that
might tend to prejudice or affect witnesses and others involved in the case.

For precisely this reason, the Caymanian
Compass agreed to stop posting reader comments in on-going criminal trials if
those comments relate to the case facts or other issues before the court.
However, the presiding judge in the above case correctly noted that he had no
power to order Facebook or its users to keep silent.

Similar matters are being debated in other
jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, for instance, judges have attempted –
fruitlessly – to stifle media chatter regarding the identity of a footballer
who had been involved in an extramarital affair with an actress. The
blogosphere and social media websites had the player’s name and photo all over
the Internet in short order.

News media outlets, including newspaper and
television organisations, were bound by court order and most did not reveal the
player’s identity. 

At any rate, a “super injunction” (a type
of legal gag order that blocks the media from reporting details of a story and
which also prevents journalists from mentioning the mere existence of the
injunction) issued in the case by the UK court was busted when a Liberal MP –
acting under parliamentary privilege – disclosed the player’s identity to the
UK House of Commons. At this point, the news media were apparently free to
report it.

This situation is absurd. It is nothing
less than discrimination against the news media in favour of social media
whether the legal system or lawmakers view it that way or not.

Cayman’s situation is scarcely better. A
judge might not want to acknowledge social media sites, but they do exist and
will continue to do so even if a “joint press release” is issued by attorneys.

A better solution must be devised.

 

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