June 21, 2007

A higher degree of scrutiny

Perhaps our Government should have attended the Conference on the Caribbean where some enlightened positions on the Freedom of the Press and scrutiny of public officials are being discussed:

"...in a democratic society public officials should not receive such special protection but rather be exposed to a higher degree of scrutiny so as to foster public debate and democratic oversight of their conduct," he said. "A more complex issue is how to handle forms of indirect pressure that are within the purview of the legitimate exercise of public responsibilities.

"Such as [when] under relatively equal conditions, all or most official news coverage is made available to media that support the government, or when legal government powers are used to silence the opposition media.

"What is at issue, is neither the letter of the law nor the right of the state to enforce it but rather the fact that, when this is done, a clear signal is being sent to the rest of the media causing self-censorship and fear."

and very interestingly for Bermuda:

Governments, he noted, also use the lack of access to public information as a mean of stifling freedom of expression. "No society can claim to be pluralist, tolerant, and rooted in justice and mutual respect if it fails to guarantee its citizens the right to elicit information regarding the work of public institutions, so that they can contribute to their improvement and thereby enhance the potential for democratic governance."

Now, where are we on Bermuda's Public Access to Information laws? Oh yeah. That initiative has gone AWOL while Government hires away as many independent journalists as they can to the Department of Communication and creates their own propaganda TV station, putting the PLP's former Public Relations Officer, and briefly the Premier's Press Secretary in a prominent content role.

Posted by Christian S. Dunleavy