Arguing that releasing documents related to the U.K.’s discredited Operation Tempura investigation would lead to the undermining of the Cayman Islands judiciary, the Governor’s Office said, “the allegations in this case are highly sensitive, will be disseminated widely within the Islands, and will come to the attention of court users.
“However, given the unregulated nature of the media, there is a substantial risk that the coverage of the allegations will not be properly balanced by the findings contained in the lengthy Report.”
In other words, Cayman’s press is not competent enough to report on the contents of the documents, and Cayman’s people are not intelligent enough to understand what they are reading.
Elsewhere in its submissions to the Information Commissioner’s Office — which ordered (for a second time) the disclosure of a complaint filed in 2010 by Tempura’s former legal adviser, and the governor’s subsequent evaluation of it — the Governor’s Office lamented “a preoccupation of the local media with an episode which concerned their own sector.”
The condescension is palpable. That “episode,” of course, refers to Tempura’s beginnings, when investigators made a covert entry into the offices of Cayman Net News, in search of evidence of improper communications between the (now-deceased) publisher Desmond Seales and local law enforcement.
It is our hope that those statements from the Governor’s Office are just legal barbs being flung by attorneys in frantic hopes of latching onto a substantial reason for continuing to withhold potentially embarrassing documents.
An ideal society would not need a Freedom of Information Law in order to compel the disclosure of information that is in the public interest because government officials would understand they are servants of the people, and government’s business is the people’s business.
The irony is that the (supposedly) better-regulated U.K. media have already published far more detailed information about this particular set of documents than the “unregulated” Cayman media have been able to — because of local concerns about breaching the archaic and amorphous “sub judice” and “scandalizing the judiciary” standards that Cayman officials still cling to despite the continual refining, or outright abandonment, of those restrictions in the U.K.
This publishing company, for one, spends thousands of dollars every month just to determine what is safe for us to print and what is not, by maintaining an open hotline between ourselves and our attorneys, who help us to stay within the guiderails of the perceived limitations on the local press.
While the Compass is always prepared to defend the raison d’être of an aggressive — and responsible — press, we were pleased to see common sense emanating from the responsive pen of Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers.
We’ll conclude with Mr. Liebaers’s apparently much-needed primer to the Governor’s Office on the nature of liberty and freedom:
“In a democratic society such as the Cayman Islands the Press has every right to express their views freely, including views critical of Government. Freedom of Expression is guaranteed in section 11 of the Constitution, and the FOI Law is itself explicitly intended “to reinforce and give further effect to certain fundamental principles underlying the system of constitutional democracy.”
“It is within this democratic context that the present reconsidered decision is being made, and it seems futile to wonder how this case would play out if the media were ‘regulated and controlled.’ No doubt this would reduce the disclosure of information by Government considerably, and increase the number of articles in the media favourable to Government, but that is not the constitutional and statutory framework within which this reconsideration is taking place, and such observations add nothing to the question at hand.”
Well put. Next question: What’s in the Tempura documents that U.K. and Cayman authorities are so desperate to conceal?