Monday, July 14, 2014

Is the Foreign & Commonwealth's Cayman Governor Suggesting Media Censorship?

Gov’s office argues media ‘unregulated and uncontrolled’

Governor Kilpatrick

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." More


Freedom of Expression part of our Bill of Rights under the Constitution of the Cayman Islands


11.—(1) No person shall be hindered by government in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his or her correspondence or other means of communication. (2) Nothing in any law or done under its authority shall be held to contravene this section to the extent that it is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society— (a) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; (b) for the purpose of protecting the rights, reputations and freedoms of other persons or the private lives of persons concerned in legal proceedings, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, or regulating telecommunications, posts, broadcasting or other means of communication, or public shows or entertainments; or (c) for the imposition of restrictions on public officers in the interests of the proper performance of their functions.