Gov’s office argues media ‘unregulated and uncontrolled’

Slams media in FOI case

Records related to the Operation Tempura police corruption investigation in the Cayman Islands should not be released, partly because those who might report them are not regulated or controlled with regard to the publication of such claims, according to the governor’s office arguments put forward in submissions to Cayman’s information commissioner.  

Precisely what type of regulations or controls should exist in the Cayman Islands news media – at least in the view of the governor’s office – were not discussed in a decision Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers released Friday. That decision ordered the governor’s office to make public nearly all of a 2010 complaint filed over the investigation by Operation Tempura’s former legal adviser and the then-governor’s subsequent evaluation of it.  

The governor’s submission to Mr. Liebaers in arguing against disclosure of the Operation Tempura records noted that the dangers of releasing a complaint that it believed would falsely undermine the Cayman Islands judiciary were greater because “the dissemination of allegations through the media in the Cayman Islands is wholly unregulated and uncontrolled.” 

“There is substantial risk that the coverage of the allegations will not be properly balanced by the findings contained in the lengthy report [which evaluated the complaint],” the governor’s office submission stated. Mr. Liebaers said previous rulings from the information commissioner’s office had dealt with this subject.  

“Questions of access to a record held by government cannot be concerned with how that record might be used in the future,” Mr. Liebaers noted, quoting from a previous open records case that was appealed before the information commissioner’s office. “This would be a shortcut to censorship and would contradict the fundamental objectives of the Freedom of Information Law.  

“Either a record is exempt under the law or it is not, but in either case, any presumed future use of a record can have no bearing on its disclosure.” 

Mr. Liebaers went on to state that in a democratic society like the Cayman Islands, the press “has every right to express their views freely” including views that might be critical of government.  

“It seems futile to wonder how this case would play out if the media were ‘regulated and controlled’,” the information commissioner continued. “No doubt this would reduce the disclosure of information by government considerably and increase the number of articles in the media favorable to government, but that is not the constitutional and statutory framework within which this reconsideration is taking place.”  

1 COMMENT

  1. While responsible journalism is important the last thing that we need in the Cayman Islands is for the local news media to be ‘controlled’.

    It was interesting to get a glimpse of what the governor’s office thinks about the local news media. However, as stated by Mr. Liebaers, in a democratic society like the Cayman Islands, the press ‘has every right to express their views freely’ including views that might be critical of government.

    The last thing that we need in the Cayman Islands is for any additional control of the local news media and I must say that I am somewhat surprised and disappointed to see the types of statements that are originating from the governor’s office as that office represents the UK which should understand the importance of press freedoms.

  2. I am looking forward to a fairly robust editorial comment on this.

    It looks to me like the Governor’s Office (or more likely the FCO) is really complaining that they need a Cayman Islands version of the UK’s discredited ‘D’ notice process.

    ‘D’ notices (renamed DA notices in 1993) were introduced in the UK during WWI 1912 to prevent the press publishing material that might aid enemies. They have trundled on ever since, the most recent use being a rather belated attempt to stop publication of the Wikileaks material.

    The official case for not releasing the Aina report has always been pretty shaky but this excuse is just plain pathetic. In fact it destroys any credibility the Governor’s Office may have retained during this expense farce.

    The Financial Times named all those involved and published outline details of the complaint two and half years ago so the proverbial cat is already not only out of the bag but has no intention of being put back in it. Continuing to cover up what really happened will not change that and only serves to perpetuate a situation in which the media can only report one side of the story because that is all they have.

  3. The thing is, that by limiting comments on certain stories, Cayman Compass, in fact, becoming the censorship police itself. I find it ironic. Yesterday it’s the Cayman Compass shutting off public comments. Today it’s the government wanting to regulate and control media.
    None of comments on Samantha Bonham’s articles were ever published.

  4. Odd logic here. What about the ‘unregulated and uncontrolled’ civil service and police?

    It seems the public sector can run round doing what they feel like without interference but when the media starts digging the dirt on those same public bodies they must suddenly be regulated.

    Shooting the messenger may the public sector’s traditional response to bad news but as George Orwell said, Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear, and the Governor’s Office ignores that message at their peril.

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