EDITORIAL – Royal Gazette: When a free press attacks free speech

“It is correct to recall that the previous PLP government left the country’s finances in a state of disrepair, and it is correct to state that the OBA arrested that decline and then began to turn around the economy …

“But for failure effectively to be projected by one of our own Bermudian business leaders before the PLP even steps foot in the newly refurbished Cabinet Office is disappointing at best, seditious at worst.”

– Bermuda Royal Gazette, July 24, 2017

There’s an old bromide about the power of newspapers that cautions against starting a war of words with someone who “buys ink by the barrel.”

It seems the Bermuda Royal Gazette has forgotten the Cayman Compass also buys ink by the barrel. (For the record, environmentally friendly soy-based ink which we daily apply to 100 percent recycled paper.)

We feel duty-bound to expend some of that ink and paper to respond to the Gazette’s recent, and rather remarkable, editorial that attacked one of Bermuda’s most highly regarded financial professionals for the seeming “offense” of talking on the record to another newspaper – namely ours, the Cayman Compass.

For the record, Robert Pires practices his trade of offering financial services to high net worth individuals and other investors both in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. He is well known in both jurisdictions, highly educated, well read and well traveled, and, if we may say so, a consummate gentleman.

And it was this same Mr. Pires that the Gazette associated with the blasphemy of “sedition” for voicing publicly the whispers of thousands of Bermudian businessmen and others regarding the victory of the Progressive Labour Party which, in its previous tenure in office, piloted our sister isle to the brink of bankruptcy – financial ruin from which it may never recover.

As Mr. Pires told our reporter, “The antagonistic approach to business during the PLP’s previous 14 years in power caused many businesses to move staffing to other jurisdictions due to the difficulty in gaining work permits, as well as its general antagonism.”

The PLP’s return to power, he said, “further increases the likelihood of reduced investment in [Bermuda], as well as a shrinking of the tax base, should international business move positions to other jurisdictions.”

Believe us, Mr. Pires can interpret a balance sheet far more astutely than the best politicians (and newspaper editors), and his views merely echo what the world already knows: Bermuda is in serious financial trouble.

Astonishingly, the Gazette attacks Mr. Pires primarily not for his mainstream views (which ironically the Gazette historically has agreed with,) but for articulating those views beyond the boundaries of Bermuda.

In the 21st century, this is a strange position for anyone to take – but especially a newspaper which, after all, one would think would be a champion of responsible free speech. Further, the notion that Bermuda’s elections are solely a Bermudian issue is antiquated, myopic and wrong.

On the global stage, where Bermuda – and Cayman – play important roles as international financial centers, there are no closed doors, there are no walls, and there are no borders.

For summertime reading, we would highly recommend to Gazette editors Marshall McLuhan’s prescient tome, “The Global Village,” in which he foretells of one world connected by an electronic nervous system. That world has come to pass. What the Gazette publishes in Bermuda, or the Compass publishes in Cayman, is almost instantaneously shared far beyond our respective shores.

“Seditious?” The Gazette owes Mr. Pires an apology.

When speaking of sin, and possibly publishing (and, no, they are not synonymous), transgressions may be considered either venial or mortal. Journalistically the Bermuda Royal Gazette has committed the latter.

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