Editorial for 23 November: Transparency, fairness issues

In a letter found elsewhere on this page, former TV news
reporter turned-political candidate Kenneth Bryan has raised questions about
whether local radio talk show host Austin Harris can be unbiased and fair given
his current position in the Coalition For Cayman political group.

“In a time such as now, the people of the Cayman Islands
need clear, clean, unbiased fact and commentary to make an informed decision on
how and who to vote for in the next general election,” Mr. Bryan writes.

According to the drafters of the Cayman Islands Data
Protection Bill, who made statements to this effect at a recent Chamber of
Commerce gathering, Mr. Harris would not be considered a “journalist” under
that legislation. So, we’re not sure if “unbiased commentary” is germane to
this issue. As a professional opinion-giver, Mr. Harris is free to be partisan.

However, with regard to voters having appropriate
information to make decisions in May, Mr. Bryan is spot on. For instance, is
Austin Harris, or for that matter his radio co-host Gilbert McLean, seeking
public office next year? In fact, we don’t know for sure who any of the
Coalition For Cayman-supported candidates are at the moment.  Actually, we don’t know for sure – six months
before the election – where the group stands on specific issues or who its
leadership is – officially anyway.

Also, six months before the election, Mr. Harris and Mr.
McLean are being allowed – presumably by the “alleged” founding member of the
Coalition For Cayman group, Hurley’s Broadcasting owner Randy Merren – to go on
the radio two to three hours a day.

The station may argue that political candidates and MLAs are
given the opportunity to appear on the show, but none of them are getting
anything close to 10-15 hours a week of free public exposure.

The issues, in our view, are fairness and transparency
rather than journalistic practices.

We hope the coalition group improves vastly on both of those issues in the coming months.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. C4C has it wrong. It is fundamentally important that our elected officials are united in their position on what our problems are as a country and also how they believe they need to be solved.

    It seems that C4C will only endorse a candidate if they are independent and put country first. However just because a candidate is independent doesn’t mean they are any good (they may be independent because no one in their right mind would work with them) and as far as putting country first – that sounds good(the People’s Progressive Movement (now the Progressives)sold itself with that line too), but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even the dumbest of our elected officials (see North East corner of the LA for reference) would say that their intention is to destroy the Cayman Islands – no, they honestly believe they are doing what is in the best interest of the Cayman Islands.

    The fact is that its usually easiest to get people to agree on what the problem is, but where differing opinions commonly arise is over what the cause(s) of (and solution(s) to) that problem is.

    To the contrarty the country leadership needs unity.

    So, for example, most will agree that unemployment in the Cayman Islands is a problem. However when one considers that it was during a period of the ‘largest capital expenditure in the history of the Cayman Islands’ (2005 – 2009) that unemployment almost doubled and went from 3.5% – 6.% (http://www.eso.ky/docum1/docum112.pdf) it may not be so easy to arrive at the cause(s) and solution(s).

    I’ve left the issue of Austin for last, as he and his political ambitions are of least importance in the grand scheme of issues facing oue Country.

    I believe the Editorial has it pretty much correct.

    I would only add that that Austin’s time on air for extended periods of time has ensured that the Country knows where he does (or doesn’t) stand on issues – and that will allow them to decide pretty quickly if he deserves to be elected, if he chooses to run.

    Being well known can be a negative in Politics if, for example, what you are widely known for is flipping daily on issues.

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  2. The issues, in our view, are fairness and transparency rather than journalistic practices.

    Austin Harris has said publicly that he has not yet decided if he is going to run as a candidate. Should we take him at his word?

    Fairness and transparency are tricky when it comes to the media enterprises. Hurley’s Entertainment is a privately held company, same as the Cayman Free Press. We know that Austin Harris, and likely Randy Merren supports C4C.

    Do we know which politicians, parties or groups the principles at Cayman Free Press support or who they have supported in the past? Do we have the right to know?

    It could be argued that it is more fair and transparent if those in the media proclaim their political leanings. It can also be argued that being required to say who you support politically is unfair.

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