Citing a concern about local and global implications of the ongoing dispute between the Cayman Compass and the ruling Progressives administration, the Chamber of Commerce has called on government to reverse its decision to pull advertising from the country’s oldest newspaper.
“We support the right to freedom of expression as exercised by the Cayman Compass and all local media and as guaranteed and protected under the Cayman Islands Constitution,” a statement from the Chamber Council released late Thursday read. “We also support freedom of expression exercised by those within our community that disagree with the editorial or other content in the newspaper. While we may not agree with what is said or written, we believe it is important for everyone to be able to state his or her views, whether that be the premier, the editor of the Cayman Compass or anyone else.
“We do not support, however, the financial sanction proposed and passed hastily during proceedings in [the Legislative Assembly’s] Finance Committee on Monday, June 8 as this sets a dangerous precedent and would negatively impact the important role that a free press plays in our democracy,” the council statement continued. “The council calls on the government to repeal the advertising ban immediately.”
The Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly voted Monday to ban all government advertising, both for jobs and for public notices, from the pages of the Cayman Compass following a motion made by East End MLA Arden McLean. Premier Alden McLaughlin and his government members supported the motion largely due to an editorial that the Compass published on June 3 that Mr. McLaughlin denounced as “treasonous.” Opposition party members McKeeva Bush and Bernie Bush abstained from voting on Mr. McLean’s motion due to Mr. McKeeva Bush’s objection about the propriety of the matter being brought before the Finance Committee rather than the full House.
Repeated attempts to seek clarification from Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, Attorney General Samuel Bulgin and Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson this week about the legality, scope and specifics of the proposed government advertising ban have not been met with a response. Mr. Manderson said only that it was his understanding the motion “speaks to all advertising for central government and the statutory authorities and government companies.”
“We are concerned that, as a result of the actions of both parties, this matter continues to unnecessarily escalate with the effect that it is creating negative international media coverage,” the Chamber Council statement noted. “This is reflecting poorly on the Cayman Islands and the wider business community and we encourage both parties to act responsibly to resolve this matter urgently.
The statement continued, “Doing so is in the best interest of the Cayman Islands’ reputation which is being unfairly damaged as a result of this matter. It would also be in the best interest of the continued right to freedom of expression by all local media as well as our wider community.”