November 30, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Law reform proposals mean “shut up”

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Colin WilsonwebOn 10th January 2014 the Law Reform Commission published for public comment a Consultation Paper on the law of contempt. The object of the paper, which was in response to an earlier referral by the Attorney General, was to generate debate on the extent to which the law of contempt should be reformed or codified so as to reflect the conditions in which it may currently fall to be applied in the Islands.

However the initial reactions were principally from the media and concerned an issue which is central to any law of contempt, namely, how to achieve a proper balance between freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. Therefore the paper discusses the rule commonly referred to as the “sub judice” rule, that is, the rule restricting (or, more accurately, postponing) publications commenting on pending court proceedings until after those proceedings are concluded.

“We believe that the current law is unduly restrictive of the right of the media to report and comment on particular legal proceedings and may very well not be compliant with the bill of rights,” the Law Reform Commission’s position paper stated.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.

One of the proposals is to place a maximum fine on publishers.

There is no provision to protect journalists from being compelled to name their sources. A reporter can face time in prison for ignoring a judge’s order to reveal his/her sources. In English Law there is such a provision but not here.

If journalists don’t have this protection it will be almost impossible for journalists to report news because persons will be afraid to speak out on injustices. They will have no automatic anonymity from the journalist.

The authors have mentioned the Bill of Rights and the growth of electronic media as two mitigating factors in coming up with these quite frankly unnecessary stringent proposals.

They seem to be unaware of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Only the other day a visitor was arrested here because he started filming a court case because he was unaware of our third world Draconian restrictions to even taking photographs let alone moving pictures. It is allowed in other countries.

The Law Reform Proposals is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It is not reform at all. It is a thinly disguised attempt at telling the press to shut up or be locked up.

I hope everyone in Cayman is reading other media reports/editorials on this subject. We are mostly united on this. You must be too. Make your voice known. If you don’t, these restrictive rules will be in place and you will not be heard.

Do not be misled by the seemingly placating arguments being made in this report. It is NOT on the side of media.

Members of the public are invited to submit their comments on the paper. Submissions should be made no later than 21st April, 2014 and should be posted to the Director, Law Reform Commission, P.O. Box 1999 KY1-1104, delivered by hand to the offices of the Commission at 1st floor dms House, Genesis Close or sent by e-mail to [email protected]

See iNews Cayman story published January 12 2014 “The law of contempt proposals ready for public comment” at: https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/the-law-of-contempt-proposals-ready-for-public-comment/

See also today’s iNews Briefs “Cayman’s Law Reform Commission’s paper for discussion on the sub judice rule”.

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