Editorial for Oct 25: Responsibility

Premier McKeeva Bush is suing two journalists, a radio station owner and a radio talk show caller for making or publishing what he claims are defamatory comments. It will be up to the Court to decide whether Mr. Bush’s case has merit and it is not our intention here to comment on that matter.

Suffice it to say, we here at Cayman Free Press Ltd. believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press. However, we also keenly understand that with freedom of the press come tremendous responsibility to be accurate, balanced and fair in our reporting. Many readers naively believe most everything they read is true, especially when it’s well written with an authoritative voice.

Beyond being responsible for our own writings, we are also very aware that in this age of Internet blogs, forums and reader comments, we must be careful about the comments we publish from others. It’s not good enough to say everyone is entitled to express their opinion when those opinions include facts known to us to be untrue or even possibly untrue. Recklessly published opinions can not only damage individuals or businesses, but can also damage the Cayman Islands.

Last month, a woman called us from North American concerned about something she had read on an Internet blog that suggested Cayman had become a dictatorship. She was genuinely worried that her property here could be nationalised by the government. We assured the woman there was no dictatorship in the Cayman Islands and that what she had read was simply a gross exaggeration posted by someone who opposed the current government. She was relieved to know what she had read wasn’t true.

It’s one thing for members of the public, who aren’t trained in proper journalism practices, to write outrageous statements. It’s another thing for a media source to publish these kinds of statements, and they put themselves at risk by doing so. If Mr. Bush feels he has a legitimate complaint against members of the media, we acknowledge that his best recourse is through the Courts. We would much rather see this than for him to try other less democratic methods of muzzling the press, as authoritarian governments have done in other countries.

 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Have these three defendants all conspired to defame and slander Mr. Bush’s reputation all at the same time ?

    Did they get together in a dark smoky room and put their heads together and said, ‘let’s get this guy’?

    Caycompass’s ‘let’s not rock the boat’ editorial policy has been the foundation of this media house’s survival strategy for almost 40 years now but even Caycompass has been threatened by this ‘tin-pot-wanna-be dictator’ who can’t even keep himself out of the investigatory procedures of the country of which he is the elected leader.

    Make no mistake about it, the democratic foundation and institutions of the Cayman Islands are strong and working properly and McKeeva Bush will not be able to threaten or undermine them in his or anyone else’s lifetime.

    The people of Cayman need to be thankful that there are alternative media sources that aren’t scared to keep the ‘freedom of the press’ laws active and alive.

    Intelligent followers of events in the press will not be fooled by this tactic by McKeeva Bush to divert the attention of at least 3 ongoing investigations into his conduct and activities, the outcome for which Cayman’s public has every right to have concluded swiftly and the results made public.

    This Caycompass editorial does freedom of the press in Cayman no favours.

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  2. An observer once noted that even in the midst of the cut and thrust of their battle to compete, the one occasion in which the press will always find unity is when there is an attack on its freedom. Sadly it appears that the Compass was not one of those under observation. It is not sufficient to merely say you believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press and rely on others to fight your battles for you. It is one thing for an individual of good repute to ask the court to decide whether someone has overstepped the mark in their comments. The law provides for that. It is quite another for one member of the press to appear to chide a competitor under the guise of preaching responsibility.

    Editor’s note: We take Mr. Panton’s comments under advisement as they are all fair observations. We wonder if his comments would even be posted if they were made to the other media and were critical of those organisations.

    However, we would ask him this question: where were the other press outlets in this country when the Compass was being threatened with prosecution and thrown out of the Legislative Assembly last December?

    Their response seemed to be, shall we say kindly, lacking at best? The Compass got more support from international news agencies and human rights groups than it did from the Cayman Islands press. What was the reason for this lack of local press support? Perhaps it was because the criticisms and efforts to ‘prosecute’ came from sources more friendly to the other media than Premier Bush?

    We wonder.

    In any case, Mr. Panton might also note that the first news agency to report the criminal investigation currently being conducted in relation to Premier Bush was the Caymanian Compass. We are aware that other news sources in this country knew of the case, but they apparently waited until the Compass reported the news before reporting it themselves.

    Wonder why?

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  3. Dear Editor: Thank you for bringing those issues forward in response. I would say that I had no doubt that you would post my comment.

    As I do now, I would have hoped that there would have been solidarity shown when you were being threatened with prosecution in December. I cant say that I recall the exact details of the issue but I do recall thinking it was a storm in a teacup and that the AG took the correct approach. I dont recall any other local news media being critical of your actions or ultimately that of the AG in dismissing the issue.

    I suppose my original comment was motivated from the perspective that the Goliath of the local media shouldnt be having a swipe at one of the Davids amongst their competitors without realising that it was on a slippery slope. There have been enough threats to freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of journalists to make enquiries of criminal investigations without fear of retaliation in the recent past in this country and neither the press nor the people they serve should tolerate it.

    Whilst I note that it was the Premier who perhaps inadvertently disclosed the fact that he was the subject of a criminal investigation, I applaud the Compass for being the first to formally report on it. I think given your broad shoulders in the industry perhaps it is right that you have a greater responsibility to deliver the unvarnished truth to the people and I think they recognise and appreciate it when you do.

    Editor’s note: Thanks again Mr. Panton. We’re glad you care enough about this very important issue to have a little debate here with us.

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  4. Perhaps it was because the criticisms and efforts to ‘prosecute’ came from sources more friendly to the other media than Premier Bush?

    We wonder.

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    Do you wonder perhaps because the Compass’s criticisms come from a source friendly to Premier Bush?

    Editor’s note: Read the rest of the editor’s comment, Mr. Tom. Would a source so ‘friendly’ to the Premier have been the first to report on his criminal investigation? The facts are against you there, I’m afraid.

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  5. The facts are against you there
    ———————————–
    How about some facts to support your accusation:

    Perhaps it was because the criticisms and efforts to ‘prosecute’ came from sources more friendly to the other media than Premier Bush?

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