Censorship of the media

| 28/01/2010

This letter is in response to an Editorial which appeared in the January 27th edition of The Caymanian Compass. The Editor referred to comments made by “one radio talk show host” in an editorial entitled “Media Relations 101”. Let me confirm that I was that host and I take full responsibility for the opinion expressed.

My comments simply were, though said in a broader context, “I could understand the logic behind both sides of the argument either for or against control of the media.” Before I begin, let me first concede that Censorship in any form represents a slippery slope and therefore any such action should never be entered into lightly. I also accept the editorial’s opinions coming from a standpoint of opposing censorship of the media. I, on the other hand, believe there is likewise room to support media censorship in certain circumstances, and I will attempt to qualify my previous remarks herein.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was the Supreme Court Justice at the turn of the century, argued in the 1919 United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States that “Freedom of Speech does not permit an individual to yell, ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded theatre, causing panic.” He argued that while Truthful, this statement is also Dangerous.

I believe the same is true about sensational news headlines. Headlines which are designed to grab our attention or sell papers may be considered what Holmes described as being a “clear and present danger”, which Government has the right to prevent. Most recently, the Commissioner of Police, David Baines, commented that he believed sensational news headlines have led to the belief that crime is worse than it really is. There is, in my opinion, some truth in that.

It is my opinion that in any well run society a degree of control must be applied, especially if that society has a small, fragile economy or an economy which is largely built on public perception. As unpopular as the actions of then Leader of Government Business, now Premier, were following Hurricane Ivan, to restrict media access in order to protect our tourism business, I can understand the dilemma that faced the Leader and the impetus behind his ultimate decision, given the income the islands derive from this sector. One future visitor who changes their vacation plans can just as easily turn into thousands or hundreds of thousands who change their plans. Imagine what the absence of that Income would do to our currently fragile economy!

Similarly, following Tuesday’s earthquake, if the Premier’s comments, which were made when he called the programme, inferred a similar action for similar reasons, I saw those fears as being well founded. The spoken or printed word is a funny thing. Once uttered, it is difficult to take back. When larger issues such as the life of our national economy are at stake, greater care and attention needs to be given to the information that is disseminated, otherwise it can, as Holmes argued, represent a clear and present danger, and must, out of necessity, be suppressed.

 

Austin Harris is the host of Cayman Crosstalk, the morning talk show on Rooster 101.9FM
 

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (66)

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  1. Balanced View says:

    Although I may not necessarily share Austin’s "political" slant, I would like to congratulate him on his views on this subject. I think it is a balanced view and represents “responsible journalism”.

    There are boundaries to everything. This includes "Freedom of speech". I believe the poster of "Sun, 01/31/2010 – 14:14" also said it well.

    If there were no boundaries, then anyone could say anything about anyone at anytime. Without consequences, there would be pure chaos. With freedom of speech there is a responsibility and a duty not only to the facts (which some persons seem to promote at the exclusion of everything else) but also the truth and to how what we say affects others.

    No one is saying that all speech will be restricted. We are just saying that there are at least three sides to every story and one must be mindful of the bigger picture and not just the headlines (or the money).

    To quote two clichés:
    1) Not everything good to know is goodto talk. 2) It is not just what you say, but how you say it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Laws are in place to protect people from the misuse of the freedom of speech and they are called libel & slander laws.

      For someone, anyone especially a native Caymanian in the journalism trade to advocate some form of censorship shows a complete lack of understanding into the political and sociological history and evolution of this society.

      Everything has been said, those comments were a huge disappointment.

  2. anonymous says:

    austin sure must be happy with all the latest news, given that it draws people attention from his moronic statements. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    talk about censorship!!!!! watch this

  4. Heavy Cake says:

    I agree, Austin, let’s censor the media! Shall we begin with you?

  5. Anonymous says:

    It suprised me to see Austin’s opinion in favor of some censorship in media in the Caymanian Compass on February 2nd. I would have thought that he would have perhaps reevaluated this opinion since his original posting. Cayman News Service response has been outspoken yet Mr. Harris remains seemingly firm in his position. Now that is cause for concern.

  6. Austin-Tacious says:

    Oh dear Austin, I think the kids these days would call this an "epic fail". Anywhoo’s, think I’ll pull all my advertising off the air, can’t be good for business.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with the EPIC FAIL comment.  Austin- what a dissapointment.

      You use examples of what ensued after Hurricane Ivan and the recent Earthquake. In those cases – no news was NOT good news. To try to muzzle the media when the financial industry was pushing for the message "we are fine despite the destruction" was just foolish on the part of our leader. While we struggled, we all persevered and rebuilt this island. That’s what should have been resonating to the world. Not the "hush hush" that resulted.

      The same applies for a minor Earthquake. The coverage indicated the facts of the event and that we had no serious damage. What is harmful in that? Would you prefer the international media take the reigns and spout messages of doom and carnage.

      In relation to the commissioner’s belief that the media are inflating the problem – that is rubbish. A crime occurrs and they report it. Giving the people of this country the information and details that they deserve to be aware of. Trying to downplay the problems is a injustice to the people and an exercise in pretense.

      In any event, silencing the media is never the right thing to do. Use the media, get your message straight and use the media to get the message out there. Media relations 101 – JUST COMMON SENSE. If they report something incorrectly or use a certain angle, we are fortunate enough to live in a country where we can actually contact the media to set the record straight.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve stopped listening to Rooster in the mornings. I grew sick and tired of Austin’s non-stop diatribe about whatever takes his fancy and his obvious disrespect for the opinion of others who were trying to get through. I was sick and tired of holding on while he blabbed on an on and I paid precious $ to C&W, so when we get sick and tired we move along on the radio dial and that I did. I actually began feeling sorry for other fellow listeners/callers and for the co host Gilbert, non of whom could get a word in because the blabbing machine just kept going, and going, and going .. Duracell has great competition!

    • Recently Enlightened says:

      They should re-name the show to "Harris-Talk". Seems like only his opions and slants are worthy of airtime. Maybe we can get a tv show out of it also, "Harris Knows Best".

  8. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps another article could be placed here as this one seems to be a slam dunk against censorship and frankly a fairly easy call for anyone above the age of 10.

    When Austin runs for the LA you can be sure this will come back to haunt him.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is there anyone who is surprised that Austin Harris defends the censorship of the media, especially in a time of Mckeeva Bush dictatorial rule? Austin Harris has become most well known for his puppy love for the UDP especially Bush & Solomon, therefore it should be no shock that Harris is a supporter of Mac censoring the media. Big Mac has always done so, attempted to do so, or threatened to do so, & Harris is simply towing the line!

  9. what a mess says:

    I have never listened Austin much. He comes across as someone who is impressed with himself…someone who thinks he knows it all. And why?…it’s not like he has any "real" qualifications or accomplishments…which leaves only ego that is fueling his perceception of his own "wisdom". As a previous poster said "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".

    Good journalism requires competent people…people who will do the needed research…and who cherish open, ethical, responsible reporting…none of which Austin can honestly claim.

    Austin’s use of the qoute referenced make no sense at all. Austin, are you suggesting that no one yells fire even when there is a fire?

    Maybe Austin is impressed with, and following the example of, Macdinijad…say whatever comes to mind that he thinks may add to his own  percieved importance.

    • Anonymous says:

      Listen to yourselves, honestly, you’re commenting against Mr. Harris, and yet acting in the very way that you claim he does that you dislike.

      The comment forum should be that of comment about the issue, not about the person making the comment.

    • Anonymous says:

      I disagree with comm. Baines that the news media is bloviating the news reports on crime. in fact the media is simply only reporting what has been given to them from the police and the courts.  So how can he accuse them of reporting anything else but the facts.

      It seems like Mr. Baines is only protecting himself from being criticized as the public is generally unsatisfied with RCIP  performance and he has not provided the training they need  public opinion is that he himself can not handle the situation and is just simply riding it out. We realize that within the next couple of weeks the premiere and the governor will have to make a serious decision in whether the commissioner should continue in his position or let the public know what is their plan B as Plan A is deminitely not working.

  10. StillgoingStrong says:

    Austin

    Therefore the underlying rule for censoring freedom of speech, is to prevent "harm" done to our economy, environment, and/or people. Other than that, freedom of speech, SHOULD AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE BE FREE and never hindered by anyone, government, or group.
    A lot of times, I have issue with the moderator here on CNS, because I had a lot of good ideas I wanted posted, and yet this moderator for “trivial reasons” have not posted my comments. Austin, no harm was done to anyone, environment, creature, or economy… so why censor me.
    The other day, someone told me that they were censored, because they "cuss" (Cayman way of saying curse). Although that to many may seem rude, and I personally don’t cuss, isn’t it that person’s right to express he or she feels about a subject?  Why should I or anyone be told that your post is not reflective of Cayman’s Christian heritage, and therefore you must refrain from making such a comment? This is what I find happening in Cayman and on the talk show – like we can’t call out names, etc…
    It is things like this that we need to grow up and mature. There is no harm down. THE RULE IS IF NO HARM IS DONE, ALLOW!  I may disagree with what you say 100%, but I will fight and defend 100% your freedom to say it! 
    THIS IS WHAT FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS ALL ABOUT!

    CNS: Just to note that I have never deleted a comment because it is "not reflective of Cayman’s Christian heritage". I have, however, sometimes deleted comments because they are made in annoying font and/or colours. This blue is not as bad as the orange but still irritating. The reason why stand-out comments, including those written in caps, are deleted is because a "notice me" battle between commenters would be a real pain to read. Just write in regular font, please.

    I think in one of your comments you indicated that Wendy was working in cahoots with the Foreign Office. I don’t have time to defend daft accusations like that. They’re just deleted.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please note that there is a comment policy that posters are meant to abide by in order to participate on the CNS website. While I doubt most people have read the policy, by attempting to post you are implicitly agreeing to its terms and furthermore consent that the moderators have every right to not post, censor words, or delete posts that run contrary to the site policy. If you disagree with the site policy, I suggest you start your own news website and forum so that you can establish a policy you think better, rather than complaining about decisions made at CNS regarding your posts.

      Personally, I feel that CNS’s policies allow for much needed discussion of newsworthy events and community viewpoints without sliding down the slippery slope of online forum trolls and other such nastiness to be foundon unmoderated online sites. Furthermore, as a news site, I appreciate that they will not publish comments that insinuate misleading "facts" to avoid giving legitimacy to crackpot theories and gossip. To post an opinion on CNS is one thing, to raise speculation others might take for fact is another. Lastly, I support the censoring of profanity from an open site to the public, in order to maintain content decency for all readers.

      Back to my original point – if you don’t like it, quit your job, start up your own news site (and have fun with the long, grueling hours of tracking down leads and following up with interviews), gain financial support through advertising and readership and then you can make your posting policy whatever you would like it to be. Either that or learn to abide by the very fair and straightforward posting policies set by CNS.

      PS – Your freedom of speech isn’t being abridged, by the way. You have every right to say whatever it is you wanted to say, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to say it on someone else’s property (in this case a website certainly not owned Just as you can say whatever you want in someone else’s home, but they then have every right to ask you to leave or ignore you altogether. Given the general tone of your post, I would assume it’s mostly the latter…

    • Anonymous says:

      It appears to me as if you are still misfiring on all cylinders rather than going strong.

      You say "I may disagree with what you say 100%, but I will fight and defend 100% your freedom to say it! "  But of course you have already given us the little caveat "censoring freedom of speech, is to prevent "harm" done to our economy, environment, and/or people.

      Who exactly is the person that gets to decide, on something so subjective as spoken words, whether it will harm the economy, environment, or people? Are you the designated backup when Macdinejad is away on one of his many jaunts?

      Samuel Johnson once said "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel". I’m starting to think that it is the first refuge for many of the scoundrels that we have here in Cayman.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is what happens when unqualified individuals take on roles for which they are ill equipped. Austin’s top qualification for being a talk show host is the ability to be a motor-mouth who has so much to say that his callers hardly get a word in edge wise.

    It is indeed ludicrous for a member of the media to even think of censoring but then, there is the world of make believe in which anything is possible! …

  12. Anonymous says:

    "It is my opinion that in any well run society a degree of control must be applied .." says Austin.

    Iironically. in the same breath he is supporting the Premier and the UDP! Pray do tell, what well run society is he thinking of or when did he last see a degree of control being applied and by whom … the Premier?  Perpahs he wasnt listening to his competitior’s show when the Auditor General was getting his toungue lashing administered? Poor Austin.

  13. Watchman says:

    Oh, give the man a break, he said something stupid like we all do sometimes. Problem was he tried to justify it..Knowing when to change the subject is one attribute of a wise man.

    • Anonymous says:

      Then he needs to stop trying to pass himself off as a wise man (one who knows all).

  14. Anonymous says:

    All you people out there giving McKeeva, UPD and Austin a hard time, do you really forget the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan just over five years ago ???

    Do you really forget how you had to stand up in those long lines waiting for food and water in all that hot sun ?? Do you also forget how many ofyou were so concerned about whether your job was going to exist after the devastation of Ivan ??

    You ungrateful bunch, it was due to Mckeeva leadership and having some money in government to spend on his people and the country, that cruise ships returned 3 months after Hurricane Ivan and the economy went on the rebound thereafter.

    I bet if that "earthquake" a few days ago had broken up Cayman like how Ivan did, all of you would be singing a different tune today.

    For one, there is no money like how it use to be, to help rebuild our country if we now encounter a natural disaster. 

    I support "some" censoring of the media when it’s in the national interest to do so, especially at times like these when we don’t need to disrupt tourism and financial services with sensational headlines all over the world.

    Other than that, the media should have a free reign.

    • Anonymous says:

      "I support "some" censoring of the media when it’s in the national interest to do so"

      and who decides what is in the national interest?  That decision is purely political.

       So ask yourself how you would react if the PPM chose to censore.

      • A Louse In Wonderland says:

        They are good at censorship of the media in the national interest in China.

    • Watering Hole says:

      Know something?, you are absolutely correct.!!!

       

  15. au revoir says:

    what i find astounding is that Austin misunderstood a fairly simple argument, which he erroneously applied to support a point of view that no bonna fide journalist would even dream of supporting.  duh.

  16. Lachlan MacTavish says:

    Austin…cannot agree. Freedom of speech is just that….no form of censorship. The vast majority know what to believe and what not to believe. It is up to US….not up to some else to decide what we hear, see or read….don’t like it hit the off button, stop readin or walk away. I don’t want anyone especially another CIG department censoring the media.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Austin who?

    • Anonymous says:

      I am sorry Austin, if you are going to quote cases please use the full context of the decision.  The case described the use and or abuse of Freedom Of Speach, yes – however the quote was You Can’t Yell Fire "If There Is No Fire".  I’m sorry if you are misrepresenting the facts because you are trying to fool a non-informed audience or you are trying to prove your prose of the English language or purhaps you are just to dumb to fully understand what you read.  If you really want to be honest just admit that you just like Joey, need a job and that running your mouth seems to be one way of earning a living.  This still doesn’t mean you know what your talking about.  I guess at least you are coming to work everyday and not sitting at home getting paid for doing nothing.  How dumb is that,  I’d say make everyone who’s being paid by Government to sit at home must now be a Talk Show Host.  At least that’ll give us something to blogg about.

    • Anonymous says:

      Austin Morris, it was a make of car that was around in the 60’s & 70’s. If that is not so, then I’m not sure! Austin who?

  18. Gonococal says:

    I was once in a theater that caught fire. I was just about to yell, "fire!" so everyone would exit and survive. But I didn’t because I remembered that old Supreme Court case and decided I should remain silent. As I ran out of the theater I glanced back to see all the innocent people burning to death. It was a horrible scene. To this day I am filled with guilt.  

    Damn, I wish we were allowed to yell "fire" in a theater when the theater is on fire. So many lives lost…  

    • au revoir says:

      make that two of us.  and it’s all because of Austin.  had he not brought up that Supreme Court example, I would have been the first to warn those people.

  19. Richard Parson says:

    It is incomprehensible that someone in broadcast media is approving of censorship!    Of course other countries practice it.  Communist Cuba comes to mind.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Censorship of any form of media would equate to nothing less than the output of propaganda.  GIS is the government’s propaganda machine; not the local media and I would believe that no form of local media would submit themselves to censorship.  However, it is the local media’s responsibility, and duty, to maintain credible standards, as well as provide a consistent resource for the community.  It is also important to recognize the sensitivities within a small community and how the actions of the media may cause undue harm to the detriment of the community as a whole.  Sensationalism does no one any good, nor does insensitivity.  Facts must be shared; truth must be told.  But how those are disseminated firmly falls on the shoulders of the various media entities… and those who it permits use of the means to share information.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Austin, I can not believe that you would agree with any form of censorship of the media. We need to know what is happening in our country, we welcome media like CNS that digs deeper to report the news.

    Then you agree with the Premier advising the public that the media should not inform the foreign press. Come on now most of us have family living overseas and some of us have families that work for CNN, HELLO don’t you think that we would not be speaking to them at some point to let them know of our ordeal.  I guess we forgot about USG!!! maybe we could have had Cayman blanked out for that day.

    Austin, please don’t let the Premier turn you into his puppet, I have a lot of respect for you, I don’t want to loose that.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry for you…Austin has been the Premier’s puppet for quite sometime.

  22. Anonymous says:

    All I can say is Wow!

    If Mr. Harris really believes half of this stuff in his response letter it may be time for him to take another one of his signature unannounced sabaticals from his job at Cayman Crosstalk and do some real research/journalism.

  23. Mozzie Fodder says:

    I do credit Austin for the concise nature of the article. When I started reading I thought it was going to be of similar length to War & Peace……

  24. Anonymous says:

    Austin – in the future please at least try to understand the argument before putting things in writing. There is already enough evidence in the world that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  25. O'Really says:

    As another poster has already pointed out, the prohibition is against FALSELY shouting fire. If you’re going to write an article where your premise is built around an example, it’s a good idea to understand the example. 

    The idea that a talk show host, even a bad one, would support censorship is difficult to comprehend. I guess you find it acceptable because you envisage being part of that small cadre of people deciding what we, Joe Public, will or won’t be told. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I prefer opinions to be informed, not self-serving, so I’ll do what I do with your show and ignore it.

    • Say again? says:

      I think you were a little harsh with him O’really.  He may be he’s just trying to get a government job as Censor.  I listened to Crosstalk.  Once.  I found it a little shrill.  But that’s what the dial is for.

  26. Anonymous says:

    XXXXX. I used to like Austin but this just sealed his fate:

    "I will attempt to qualify my previous remarks herein.  Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was the Supreme Court Justi…"  

    That’s where I stopped reading so that I could change his name in my cell phone to"DO NOT ANSWER"  I had ignored the last 2 calls anyway, but just to make sure…

  27. Anonymous says:

    "…David Baines, commented that he believed sensational news headlines have led to the belief that crime is worse than it really is. There is, in my opinion, some truth in that…."

     

    Austin, do you belive then that the discussions on crime on your show have also lead to the belief that crime is worse than it really is?

    And if so, what are you planning on doing about it?

    Remember the show you host is broadcast internationally over the internet.  Any criticism of the government, civil service, police, prison, etc. could be considered bad for the island.

    Are you self censoring your show based on these beliefs?  Are you limiting criticism at the request of the current government becuase of your beliefs?

    • Anonymous says:

       

      I can’t believe that you people are so naive and whipped by Big Mac and the UDP’s dictatorship regime that you would even offer your precious time to discuss the probability of disposing of your contsitutional right to free speech in this forum. I’m even more disappointed in CNS for having the audacity to create a forum for idiots to respond to the question of whether Government should censor or not censor the local  media.

      The media is the only voice that is available to them. It is these poor oppressed and rejected local indiginous  and X-pat people have to voice their opinion and to get government’s attention.. Try getting an apoointment with BigMac or his Yes Men and tell me how difficult it is.

      Your Freedom of Speech is not only to be cherished, but protected and inorder to preserve that right you must fight with all you might.

      Stop putting more ideas into the minds of the already autocratic minded government by escalating the discussion. The old saying is "Cow know where fence weak" You are acting not only stupid but iliterate by just discussing how and why of if we say in a forum, or the news, could or should be censored. 

      Are you all so dumb that you don’t realize what really happened here? Where did this all originate?

      Answer:  Big Mac and the UDP had it in mind to censor the Media, he put austin Harris up to the task of discussing it on the talk show, just to test the waters to see how the people would respond.

      Any messages shared on this forum should  let the premiere clearly know, he had better not even think about that. We will really get him out quicker than he expect with  a lengthy petition and law suit protecting our rights. It would be the HRC’s first ever Human Rights Case.

      Stop the nonsense, just get ready to fight Big Mac and the UDP every step of the way if they try anything stupid !

      Sane?

  28. Anonymous says:

    I would have expected Austin to put forth a stronger argument than that.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes argued against yelling "FIRE!" in a crowded theatre when there was NO fire. I do believe Mr. Holmes, or anyone else in a crowded theatre, would appreciate a "heads up" if there was indeed a fire.

    We did indeed have both earthquakes and hurricanes, and in the case of Ivan there was severe damage. Speculation is always worse than reality, so I can think of no reason ever to censor the press.

    If Austin can support Macdinejad in this, he will also find it easier to move to the next phase where it becomes OK to "touch up" the X-rays rather than fix the broken bones.

    No dictator has ever succeeded without first muzzling the press.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Austin has no logic.  You can’t compare "Fire" to "We had an earthquake".  The reason you can’t yell "Fire" is that it could cause HARM and DEATH to people.  The reason you should be able to tell the facts in regards to a natural disaster is that it HELPS people.

    I guess we should take anything he says with a BIG grain of salt, as he was the one who let his "good friend" just bounce intot he studio and act like a third grade child on national radio.  Can I say that, is that a fact or should we "just gloss over that issue".

  30. Anonymous says:

    Given that Bruce Dinwiddy was the de facto head of the government in the "state of emergency" following Hurricane Ivan, the singular decision to deny a BBC reporter’s request to be allowed to land with a TV crew was his to make, not Mister Bush’s, although the Governor did take council from a number of government officials before rendering his "verdict". 

    The main resistance to allowing the reporter in was that several persons felt he had been entirely unfair (bordering on untruthful) in a previous report(s) on the Cayman Islands and the opinion was expressed that given the circumstances, the odds were that he would very heavily weigh his report towards the negative aspect of things.

    At the time, it was expressed (and seemed to be the majority viewpoint) that the government of the Cayman Islands was too busy meeting the needs of a hurricane ravaged nation to mess with a rascal with a camera and an agenda.

    It should be pointed out that several other reporters (including the Associated Press) were allowed into Cayman and did file reports in the days following Ivan.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Quite correct 14:11. The reporter was a known nuisance and mischief maker given to slanted non objective reporting of places like Cayman and other reporters were indeed here and filed reports. But as usual it was the mischief maker who had last laugh as most people only remember the denial of that person’s permission to "cover" the story and not the fact that others were allowed in and did indeed cover it-and fairly too.

      • J Puddleduck says:

        Yes, we are in favour of free speech only in respect of people who say nice things about us.

        • Anonymous says:

           How clever to take a single incident from six years ago and imply that is somehow related to today’s government and policy.

           

      • A Louse In Wonderland says:

        Sounds like the reasons for refusal to allow this reporter to do his job were similar to those given by Robert Mugabe to the BBC.

        PS: Why the quotation marks in "cover"?

        • Anonymous says:

          Point taken about the quote marks, Louse, though I am sure if you are literate enough to notice them you are literate enough to realise why they were used.

          As for the rest of your comment about Mugabe/BBC and the similarity to Cayman: Well yes, of course there are indeed similarities which might look damning unless-a big unless- you factor in context. Despite the best efforts of some depressingly negative posters on CNS, Dinwiddy/Bush/Cayman Islands post Ivan didn’t/don’t quite compare in any meaningful way to Mugabe/Zimbabwe ongoing for many years. Context can matter as the famous example of shouting "fire" in a theatre exemplifies inter alia.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for clarifying this issue which should have been done 5 years ago.

      I always wondered about that

    • But then . . . says:

      Banning someone from reporting a news story because you don’t like what they say is a fairly blatant example of interference in free speech.

      • Anonymous says:

        I thought then (and now) that what the Cayman Islands (and the people who were in the beginning stages of recovery) needed was accurate information getting out to the world at large.  What was not needed by those here (or those with ties here) was a negatively distorted version of the facts.

        "Freedom of Speech" used to carry with it some expectation of responsible use – that is, you were free to argue your viewpoint and not simply use that freedom to incite or damage.  Even today some countries have laws in place against libel, slander, hate speech, etc.

        In the days following Hurricane Ivan, the government was keenly aware of the effect misinformation could have on those with personal or business interests in the Cayman Islands.  It was crucial for all that a balanced picture be put forward.  For example, even though there was major damage – there was not major loss of life; even though essential services were completely gone in some areas – government was still functioning and coordinating relief and recovery efforts.  See, there needed to be balance to the stories going out.

        When faced with the dilemma of whether or not to let a notoriously biased journalist onto the island (to muck about in the midst of recovery efforts), the Cayman Islands government took (I think) the "high road" of making what may seem to be an odd decision:  in truth, it was decided that the BBC crew COULD come in – however, the reporter could not.  What was (perhaps naively) hoped was that more accurate and balanced reporting might be achieved.

        Regarding freedom of speech and responsible use:  if anyone at anytime is free to say anything they want, then I guess you won’t mind if I call you an inbred, half-wit, thieving, drug-addled sex fiend.  Obviously, I have no way of knowing if any of that is true.  In fact, I doubt any of that is true.  But if freedom of speech is absolute, I guess I can say it anyway.

         

         

        • But then . . . says:

          The problem with the debate on this thread is that it is at such an uninformed and banal level that it is pointless addressing many of the points.  The jurisprudence of Article 10 and the First Amendment is fascinating and raises many interesting issues.  Banning journalists because you don’t like their stores is not one of them.  It is the approach to free speech heralded in Harare and Beijing.

          • Anonymous says:

            Apologies.  I wasn’t clear.  Nor was I really debating.

            I was not advocating banning journalists because I don’t like their stories.  I don’t think that was CI government policy in 2004 and I don’t think it is CI government policy now.  I was simply trying to relate my perceptions of the events of those days.

            I don’t think that refusing to allow in one journalist (who, it was felt, had acted irresponsibly towards the facts in the past) while allowing every other journalist onto the island, constitutes suppression of the freedom of speech.

            There is probably something that could be said about the responsibility of the media to report accurately, but I’ll leave that to someone else.  Or perhaps that is a concept whose time has come and gone anyway.

            Please understand that this decision wasn’t made in an air-conditioned corporate boardroom.  It was made by men and women covered in dust from a devastated Grand Cayman, people who had just seen their country get the shit kicked out of it by a hurricane and were doing their best to do what they felt was in the best interest of everyone.

            It should also be noted that the reporter in question was allowed on Grand Cayman within days of his initial request and filed at least one report:

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3674884.stm

            For those of you who were here, I leave it to you whether or not that is an accurate and balanced report.

            I might also point you to Wendy’s article and her perceptions of the British media in the days following Ivan:

            http://www.caymannetnews.com/2004/11/750/commentary.shtml

            But then…. 

             

            • Anonymous says:

              Well said Anon Mon 20:24! Those of us who were with you after Ivan, covered in dust and fearful about the future, agree that the conditions were unusual, and accusations that Cayman behaved like Beijing or Harare are, to put it exceptionally mildly, misguided and unsympathetic to the context brought about the storm.

            • B. B. See says:

              That BBC article seemed like a viewpoint that could have been validly held from my experience. 

  31. Anonymous says:

    How ironic that the host of a radio talk show that exerts complete censorship control of the on air comments of callers writes a statement advocation censorship.

    Disagree with Austin and you will quick find yourself on the telephone listening to a dial tone.

    Of course I completely disagree with censorship and further believe that in a society with a history of fear of retribution and almost total lack of transparency, the argument for some form of censorship is a call to charge backward.

    Of course a free media will make mistakes occasionally and will embarrass politicians but it will also open up the decisionmaking process to the people and hold politicians accountable.

    The quickest way to disrupt a democracy is to censure the media. How can Austin not realize this? Look at almost any failed democracy and you will see the control of media was mandatory. Free thought, free speech had to go.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Austin Harris – Minister of Propaganda, UDP.

    It is obvious folly to attempt to suppress information about an earthquake or a hurricane as if the rest of world will never know otherwise. These are natural events and that thousands of people will have experienced and spread information in this modern information age. It just makes us look bad. What Mr. Harris failed to include was the LOGB’s (as he then was) statement to the whole world that the Cayman Islands is broke and cannot pay its bills. This gave ammunition to our competitors, to our detractors such as the Tax Justice Network and may really have scared investors. That is surely more akin to shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre and can also cause a stampede, but no doubt is justified in Mr. Harris’s book under the heading ‘political expediency’.  If Mr. Harris were a real journalist and not a UDP puppet commentator he would apply his logic to this instance as well.    

    • Anonymous says:

      Well stated. Hopefully some of Austin’s listeners and sponsors are reading the responses to his ridiculous logic and non-analogy.