Cayman Islands AG Declines to Charge Reporter

24 December 2010

The Attorney General of the Cayman Islands has decided not prosecute a reporter who wrote an article saying that a legislative committee planned to discuss the freedom of information law in private.

AG Samuel Bulgin Bulgin issued a statement  Dec. 20 saying he would not be moving ahead with a prosecution against The Caymanian Compass or its reporter, Brent Fuller. A legislative committee had asked Bulgin to consider charges. (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)

In the wake of Bulgin’s statement, the legislator who made the motion for prosecution, Ezzard  Miller, told the Cayman News Service that he was satisfied with the AG’s decision. “I have asked the authorities to prosecute plenty of people that I believe have broken the law before and they usually don’t do it, so there is nothing different here,” Miller said. “I believed the law had been broken. I did what the process allows me to do; that’s all I can do.”

Miller argued that Fuller’s article and the editorial supporting it gave the impression that the members of the Legislative Assembly were doing something unlawful when they had said the FOI select committee review was being held in secret. The Compass argued, however, that the report was factual as the meetings will be held in camera and that the editorial was merely a fair comment on the situation.

The Compass article on Bulgin’s decision is here.

A letter protesting the legislature’s action was sent by 19 worldwide groups.  The letter noted with approval the AG’s  decision, but also said “that the Motion passed by the Legislative Assembly is still likely to exert a chilling effect on local coverage of this important public body.”

 The Dec. 22 letter also said:

As advocates of openness, we also believe that it is inappropriate for the legislature to conduct discussions regarding reform of an access to information law in secret. International good practice dictates that such meetings should be conducted in the open and that any committee reviewing such a law should provide as much opportunity as possible for public input. Secrecy would have to be justified with specific reasons by the chairman of such a committee.

The Compass article about the letter is here.

Signatories included:  5th Pillar, India;  Access Info Europe, Spain;  African Network of Constitutional Lawyers; Arab Freedom of Information Network ;  ARTICLE 19;  and the Centre for Law and Democracy.

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