A Jordanian man who has recently been making himself something of a celebrity on the local talk radio circuit told the Caymanian Compass on Friday that he’s been “banned” from appearing on one of the local talk-back programmes.
The man, Amjed Zureigat, said he was told by Cayman Crosstalk host Austin Harris during an appearance on last Thursday’s show that he would no longer be allowed to call into that programme.
“I consider this a sad time for freedom of expression and democracy in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Zureigat said. “It’s very sad … that if you have a certain opinion, a certain radio station will not let you voice your opinion.”
Speaking with the Caymanian Compass on Friday, Mr. Harris – a long-time host of the show, along with co-host Gilbert McLean – said Mr. Zureigat’s comments about the Rooster morning talk show not letting him “voice his opinion” were not true. Mr. Harris acknowledged that Mr. Zureigat had been told he wouldn’t be allowed to call the show, but only after Mr. Harris said the Jordan native told the show hosts he would hold them liable if something happened because of public fallout from Mr. Zureigat’s appearances on the call-in programme.
Mr. Harris said he could not allow Rooster FM to be held liable in such a situation, so he told Mr. Zureigat not to call Crosstalk anymore.
“[Mr. Zureigat] has many ways to express himself in public,” Mr. Harris said. “He can call Talk Today [Radio Cayman’s afternoon talk-back programme], he can write on the blogs [referring to reader comment areas on several local news-related websites, including www.cayCompass.com].”
Mr. Zureigat, who has been on Island six years and is married to a Caymanian, has often found himself in the press or the local media. In 2007, the Compass published an interview with him after he was assaulted behind a building downtown by perpetrators that appeared to be wearing high school uniforms. He lost his wallet and $500 that day, he said.
He has also made other claims of being attacked for various reasons and more recently said he was being threatened by certain individuals because of opinions he was stating on Crosstalk, in particular.
“I did issue a statement [on the radio Thursday] that, after the hate being promoted against me, because I view my opinion in the public radio station, the amount of hate being promoted against my opinion … it makes me concerned,” Mr. Zureigat told the Compass on Friday. “I did receive threats … by people who call in the radio station, by supporters of [a politician]. They issue disrespect to my family, they said racist comments.”
The Compass checked with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service regarding any threats alleged to have been made against Mr. Zureigat. Only one such incident has been reported. Ironically, it occurred just hours after Mr. Harris told Mr. Zureigat he could no longer call in to the talk show.
“Police responded to a report of a verbal altercation in Lawrence Boulevard shortly after 11am Thursday, 19 April, where it is alleged one male threatened another,” the police statement about the incident read. “Police enquiries into the incident are ongoing.”
No other earlier reports of threats or violence against Mr. Zureigat as a result of his talk show appearances have been made, police said.
Mr. Zureigat claimed that during Thursday’s incident, some men were taking cell phone camera pictures of him inside the Cafe Del Sol store and behaving in a threatening manner.
The Compass has contacted two of the three individuals involved in what police described as the “verbal altercation” on Lawrence Boulevard last Thursday. One declined to comment, another said he hadn’t taken anyone’s picture at the location. The two individuals are not being identified by the newspaper because they have not been charged with a crime.