Editorial for 21 January: The press 'union' conundrum

Suggestions have been made over the years
within certain circles, and most recently last week at the opening of the
Cayman Islands Grand Court, that local news media groups should form some kind
of association, union or governance council.

Despite vague interest expressed within the
local media realm for something akin to a Society of Professional Journalists –
an informal gathering of the industry which would, among other things, set best
practices, lobby on legal issues and perhaps even dole out awards – such an
idea has never caught on. And we at the Caymanian Compass believe it won’t
catch on this time either.

There are many reasons for why this impasse
exists, but the main one can be stated as follows: The government wants
something entirely different out of this group than do the members of the local
press. The two sides are at polar opposites and will never meet in the middle.

We will reveal in this editorial that the
Cayman Free Press – our parent company – was approached several years ago with
a proposal to become the ad hoc “regulator” of the local media business;
similar to CIREBA within the local real estate industry. We would set the rules
that others would follow and dole out the punishment for those who did not.

This model applied to the news media
business is not supported by the CFP and, we feel quite safe in saying, it is
not supported by any other members of the local press. A quasi-regulatory body,
without any real legislative backing, can only work if it has either the
proverbial carrot to entice other members to join or a stick to beat them with
if they don’t. The Cayman Free Press, unlike CIREBA, has neither.

After examining this issue from every
conceivable angle, we can’t seem to find any benefit to our company or any
other sizeable media operation in the Cayman Islands in joining a
quasi-regulatory press association or union. 

We cannot do what the government wants us
to do; and we don’t see any reason why we should do what some other members of
the media wish us to do. We already work and live by a stringent code of ethics
at CFP. The answer is no.

 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve read with interest some comments posted elsewhere about getting the NUJ in the UK involved in this process – a difficult concept considering membership of that organisation is restricted to the UK and Ireland – and the overall extension of what is perceived as press freedom.

    As far as I can see since the downsizing of Cayman Net News there is now only one major print/internet news outlet in the Cayman Islands. The other three media houses are just also rans, two of them showing certain levels of political bias, whose only real interest in this kind of arrangement is that it might give them additional credibility, which personally I do not think they deserve.

    Love it or hate it, the Compass is a properly structured newspaper with all the internal editorial safeguards that sort of organisation requires. At least two of the other three media outlets who would be drawn into this plan are nothing of the sort. They are one or two person operations, with no internal checks or balances, who quite often not only blur the line between news reporting and editorial comment but in one recent case included quotes in a story attributed to the journalist who wrote it.

    The irony of this is that the Compass seems to be the organisation that gets all the flak from the LA, from CIG and from RCIPS. To me all that shows is they are doing a good job. It is definitely not an excuse for anyone to start proposing press registration or regulation.

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  2. The answer is no.

    A resounding NO, at that.

    Please, let me have a few words on this issue, as it is one that has been relevant to me, as a contributor to publicly expressed opinions through the press from since I was a teenager, still in school.

    Growing up in Jamaica taught me the importance of a free press and publicly expressed opinions; Jamaican society takes intelligent public debate and a free press for granted as…

    In spite of Jamaica’s economic problems over the years, with its social consequences of an exorbitantly high poverty and crime rate…

    Jamaica has never seriously faced any attempts to censor the free press by any government authority.

    There might have been some feeble attempts back in the days of Jamaica’s experiment with socialist political doctrines but those died a quick and painless death; you cannot shut up Jamaican people so it is uselsss to even try.

    Cayman has been quite the opposite…and my opinion is that in certain areas, where it has suited British interests, Britain has simply ignored the human rights laws and issues that were being ignored and abused in the Cayman Islands for many years…

    muzzling of free opinions that did not suit those in power has been the doctrine of both government and private enterprise figures of authority, although this has had to be done in sneaky and underhand ways, up until now.

    That Cayman Free Press would have, at one time, been requested to exercise official authority over Cayman’s media does not surprise me at all because…

    At one time, CFP was considered the unofficial voice of the CI Government, with an almost blanket endorsement through its editorial page, of almost any government and official position, whether the evidence supported that position or not…

    And, in those days, it was almost impossible to get letters or opinions criticising or questioning the authorities printed in the Caymanian Compass.

    That has all changed now, with changing times and laws…and Cayman’s press warrior, the late Desmond Seales played a major role in keeping the concept of a free press alive in the Cayman Islands.

    That leadership role now falls on Cayman Free Press and we, the writing and opinionated public welcome CFP’s acceptance of that role and the responsibility that goes along with it.

    When the Caymanian Government finally faces a major lawsuit in Cayman’s courts under the European Human Rights statutes is when Cayman’s authorities will get the message that a free press has the protection of the LAW in any democratic society…

    And I have no doubt, that landmark lawsuit is not long in coming now; it can’t come soon enough, IMO.

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  3. The press is almost never unbiased about anything important, and it’s better not to worry too much about it. Politicians in particular are perfectly able to defend themselves if they can. The censorship horse left the barn a good while ago.

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