[Updated] Shadow Minister for Transportation Pat Gordon-Pamplin has spoken out against the removal of OBA advertising posters from bus shelters calling it an “act of political censorship,” while the PLP said it is “highly inappropriate to have political advertising on government property.”
The OBA had purchased the ads through an advertising agency, and they began appearing in bus shelters island-wide recently, and were seen being removed and replaced by generic placeholders today [Oct 17].
Ms Gordon Pamplin said: “The PLP Government has ordered the removal of all OBA advertising posters in bus shelters around the Island. The ads, the first of which were installed in bus shelters on Monday, carried the OBA message on the need for change.
“This situation came to our attention on Tuesday when we were informed by the agency contracted to post the ads that a senior official at the Department of Transport told them to take down the posters, and that the order to do so came from ‘higher up’. The posters, the official reportedly said, did not meet Transport’s ‘criteria,” continued Ms Gordon Pamplin.
OBA ad being removed from the bus shelter in the Collectors Hill area at approx. 2.30pm today:
Ms Gordon Pamplin continued: “The agency reported that its contract with the Transport Department permits bus shelter advertising as long as it does not display profanity, pornography or alcohol and/or drugs.
“When the agency protested that the contract contained no restriction on political advertising, they were told to ‘just take them down.’ We understand the posters are to be removed this afternoon. We call on the Minister of Transport to justify this act of political censorship.”
The Collectors Hill bus shelter before & after the ad removal:
“Our concern is this: When a Government feels it can prohibit public expression, it starts down a slippery bad path. Today no Opposition posters, tomorrow who knows what?
“Bermuda needs to steer clear of such heavy handed behaviour, and so we call on the Minister to provide Bermuda with the clearest explanation of why his Government ordered the posters taken down,” concluded Ms Gordon Pamplin.
Both parties are advertising heavily in the lead up to the election, using mediums including local websites, overseas websites, print and electronic media.
We have asked the Transport Ministry for clarification on the matter, and hope to update with their comments later on.
Update 3.44pm: A PLP spokesperson said: “Allowing advertising on government property sets a dangerous precedent. When the PLP was offered, we turned it down as we believe it’s highly inappropriate to have political advertising on government property.
“We believe that this is a common sense position and have no intention of splashing political advertising on government property. We challenge the OBA to abide by the important precedent that government property is no place for partisan politics.”
“The OBA crossing this line is very dangerous. Today, politics in government bus shelters. Tomorrow, who knows what! This is a very slippery and dangerous path that the OBA would have for our country. Bermuda needs to steer clear of allowing political messages to appear on government property.
“It’s a shame that the OBA is using this as a distraction because they don’t want to talk about their lack of ideas and vision for the country. So, they are using political distractions like trying to display political propaganda on government property.
“Instead of distractions, we encourage Ms. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin and the rest of her OBA party to tell us what they mean when they endorse austerity. Austerity means deep and radical cuts and Bermudians want to know who’s jobs, benefits, and pensions are on the line. That’s what this election is really about.”
Update 5.20pm: A statement from the Transport Ministry said: “The Government fully supports the freedom of speech and public expression but the posting of political advertisements in or on government owned buildings and equipment is considered unacceptable and improper.
“The Department of Public Transportation has a contract with a local media company which facilitates billboard marketing and advertising opportunities in public bus shelters.
“In accordance with the contractual agreement the Department of Public Transport reserves the right to vet and approve advertising content prior to posting the advertisement.
“It was brought to the Ministry’s attention on Tuesday 16th October that the billboards installed in some public bus shelters had political advertisement posted on them without the appropriate prior approvals and the contractor was instructed to remove the posters.
“The decision to have the posters removed is by no means a form of political censorship it is simply the right thing to do,” the statement concluded.
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