The Media Suppression Act

I found a lot in this series of questions interesting, but the following specific answer provided - anonymously of course - is worthy of a bit of deconstructing.

Let's take it in chunks:

Question: Why is legislation needed here when many countries have self-regulating press/media councils, without legal or statutory control?

Good question. So let's look at the response:

Answer: Although there have been many complaints from the public in the past, there has been no attempt on behalf of the media to form a mechanism to address such complaints. In 1999, there was an attempt to establish a press association; however, it failed due to lack of media follow through.

Show me the 'many complaints from the public'. Politicians and their proxies don't count. Of course politicians don't like their media coverage. That is other than from their wholly owned media (CITV and Hott 107.5).

Jurisdictional research revealed that the majority of countries have non-government, self-regulating media councils. In compliance with the Bermuda Constitution and in keeping with current practice, it was proposed that the drafting instructions be reframed in the form of an enabling bill that will set out standards for the media council.

The Bermuda Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press, as has been recently and repeatedly affirmed by the courts, both local, appeals and the Privy Council (as we're all very familiar with, some of us more than others).

It should be noted that although the press is not directly regulated in Britain, it is subject to a wide range of legislation [that] could affect media content. These include libel laws and Article 10 of the European Union Human Rights Convention.

There is little protection for the individual in this Island democracy. It has been historically noted that the print media, inclusive of newspapers, magazines and periodicals, exert a significant influence to the reading public without any regulations or reference to agreed standards of journalistic integrity.

Now we get to the good part.

That sentence could also read as follows:

It should be noted that although the press is not directly regulated in Bermuda, it is subject to a wide range of legislation [that] could affect media content. These include libel laws.

So, the outgoing Premier's anonymous press proxy suggests that British legislation acts as a good regulation of the press due to libel laws and the EU Human Rights Convention.

Uh oh.

The press in Bermuda is also subject to libel laws - laws that are similar to the UK's and are not materially different in any way according to my information.

That much has been well established courtesy of the Premier's repeated attempts to invoke libel to suppress free speech. Unsuccessful attempts around the BHC case, all the way to the Privy Council - Britain's highest appeals court - and also recently on the leaked Cabinet memo.

This was a bad argument, because Bermuda and Britain are indistinguishable when it comes to libel law, which the Premier's proxy has mistakenly cited as being somehow superior in Britain.

So scratch the libel excuse.

Now, on to Article 10 of the EU Human Rights Convention, which reads as follows:

Article 10 - Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

Not much objectionable there, although by my read it appears to essentially refer back to libel laws. But if it makes the outgoing Premier feel any better then I'm sure the press won't mind him asking the UK to extend the EU Convention to Bermuda.

He'd also find however that that the EU Convention is far too progressive for the Progressive Labour Party as it also protects sexual orientation - the PLP better be careful what they ask for).

Article 21 Non-discrimination

1. Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.

2. Within the scope of application of the Treaty establishing the European Community and of the Treaty on European Union, and without prejudice to the special provisions of those Treaties, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.

So done. Problem solved. Bermuda's libel laws are in line with Britain's which the Premier touted and the EU Convention could be extended to Bermuda but wouldn't really add much regardless.

I'm not sure why I'm bothering though. We all know what this is really about.

This media council is just the outgoing Premier's parting gift to The Royal Gazette.

It's a shame however that Bermuda's reputation as a stable and sophisticated place takes yet another hit because of decade old grudges and paranoias.

Hat tip to Vexed for coining "The Media Suppression Act".

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