Editorial for 18 January: Supporting the free press

We’re so glad Cayman Islands Attorney General Sam Bulgin
took the opportunity to voice his support for the free press in our country
during Wednesday’s opening of the Grand Court.

Since the honourable AG is so concerned, we just thought
we’d mention a few matters that continue to prevent the operation of that
institution within Cayman. It is to be hoped that a strong supporter of the
free press will address these matters in a direct fashion.

1.            Eliminate
entirely from the Cayman Islands Penal Code Part V, section E ‘Defamation’,
which makes the publication of defamatory matter a criminal offence. These
matters should be handled in civil court.

2.            Consider
the elimination or at least revision of archaic and needless provisions in
section 57 of the Penal Code relating to ‘seditious intention’, particularly
with regard to subsection (c) “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite
disaffection against the administration of justice in the Islands”. Also remove
sections 58 (4) and (5) of the ‘seditious offences’ section of the Penal Code
entirely.

3.            We
realise some attorneys may object to the attorney general’s proposal that a
local press association decide its own sub-judice rules – but as long as he’s
asking – our recommendation is that sub-judice be severely restricted only to
cases before the court where a judge has made special order and given reasons
for why the publication of such matters cannot be reported in the public domain.

4.            Eliminate
the Confidential Relationships [Preservation] Law.

5.            Eliminate
all sections of the recently-proposed Data Protection Bill that allow the
Cayman Islands government, through the information commissioner and the Grand
Court, to define who is and is not a journalist.

If Mr. Bulgin truly does believe in the continuation and
strengthening of the free press in these Islands, his office would be well
advised to work on the matters addressed above. Surely, they are more important
than forming a committee or association with the sole objective of filing
frivolous complaints about news stories that have no basis in law.

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. A very well worded editorial…but there is more to this than just flowery words.

    A free press must FIGHT to remain free, and Cayman’s original press warrior, the late Desmond Seales MBE, RIP is no longer with us but…

    Desmond defined what it meant for the press to remain free and independent in the context of the Cayman Islands; he was willing to put his very existence…and freedom…on the line for what he truly believed in.

    I hope that these few words can honour his memory.

    If Caycompass wishes to have these legal clauses removed from Cayman’s penal code, which are probably now in violation of the European Statues of Human Rights anyway, it will take legal challenges in Cayman’s courts to have them removed.

    Merely requesting those in ‘officialdom’ to be ‘nice guys’ and do the right thing has proven useless in the past.

    And nothing has changed in the Cayman Islands, in that respect.

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  2. Firery

    that’s a good comment but then Desmond, as those who worked for him soon found out, had a simple answer to these legal constraints – he just ignored them.

    In fact Net News regularly published material that was biased, untrue, defamatory and blatantly in contempt of court without any retaliation. During my time honest stories written by hard-pressed journalists in Alissta Towers were regularly re-written in Miami and turned into malicious rubbish. That is not objective journalism.

    Quite how he always got away with it is open to debate but it is worth remembering that at the same time some very significant stories we had worked on were also buried after cozy little deals had been done with the people involved.

    Desmond was, and there can be little debate about that, a great pioneer in the development of the media in the Cayman Islands but in his latter years he also became a skilled manipulator who was quite willing to use the power of the press to his own ends if necessary.

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