People’s Campaign: Silencing Public Discourse

August 19, 2015

[Updated with video + OBA response] The legal action “being sanctioned by the Cabinet who have taken the unprecedented step” to pay for the legal fees “enshrines as official policy of this Government the silencing of public discourse,” the People’s Campaign said today.

These comments follow after legal action was launched after People’s Campaign member Jason Hayward made certain statements pertaining to Finance Minister Bob Richards on a television appearance in relation to the emails over the airport contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

Minister Richards recently confirmed that the legal action will be funded by the Government, saying, “The action has directly to do with my fulfillment of my duties as Minister of Finance, and the Cabinet took the position that this related to that, it was a Government matter, and the Cabinet decided this would be the policy.”

The statement from the People’s Campaign said, “The Right to Free speech and Freedom of Expression is a fundamental tenet enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirmed in the Bermuda Constitution Articles 8 and 9, and supported by the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“The position of the People’s Campaign for Equality, Jobs, and Justice is that this insidious action is nothing less than a flagrant attack on one of the most fundamental rights of every human being, namely the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

“Whenever such rights are threatened it constitutes an assault on the most basic rights in countries that purport to be democratic. This action is right out of the Reginald Grey ‘poor Blind Sampson’ playbook from a time that many Bermudians thought had long since passed, but as the adage goes the more things change the more they stay the same.

“First of all the appearance on Let’s Talk on Monday May 11th, 2015, was a ‘Special Program’ sponsored by the People’s Campaign for Equality, Jobs, and Justice. The People’s Campaign was represented by its three principles Rev. Nicholas Tweed, Mr. Chris Furbert, and Mr. Jason Hayward.

“The purpose of the show was to make public, information that the People’s Campaign deemed to be in the public interest, specifically in regards to Government conduct surrounding the proposed development of the L. F. Wade International Airport.

“We should say at the outset that the singling out of Mr. Jason Hayward in a shared presentation wherein Mr. Hayward was representing the views and understanding of the People’s Campaign based solely upon information that was in our possession, is a direct assault upon the fundamental human right to free speech.

“We believe it to be an unconscionable retaliatory act. Any action should be directed at the People’s Campaign not at a private individual, because at no time was Mr. Hayward expressing a personal or private point of view.

“In addition at no time did Mr. Hayward personally publish or otherwise make known information as a private individual but all information pertaining to the development of the Airport was issued by the People’s Campaign and based upon documentation that was subsequently placed in the public domain and can be substantiated by evidence contained in documents that are now public.

“At no time did the People’s Campaign and specifically Mr. Jason Hayward make any false statements in respect to the Airport development and the respective role that the Government, its Ministers, and Civil servants played in the public presentation of the project.

“All statements that have been made, are statements that we believe to be based upon factual evidence, and are true, and can be corroborated by documentation that can be independently verified.

“At no time were statements made by the People’s Campaign or Mr. Jason Hayward in particular, with the intent or desire to malign, undermine, or otherwise damage the character of Mr. E. T. Richards.

“Rather all statements made were with respect to the conduct of the Deputy Premier/ Minister of Finance as a representative of the Bermuda Government and the questioning of policies and practices conducted on its behalf.

“Such practices and policies are revealed in the documents obtained under the PATI law in Canada, along with public statements made in Bermuda and widely reported in the Bermuda media, and additional statements recorded on the Hansard, the official record of the House of assembly, specifically but not limited to the development of the Airport.

“This is the latest episode in an ongoing campaign conducted by this government to undermine, stifle, and suppress not only free speech but to also suppress the freedom of the press.

“Prior to and following the appearance of the People’s Campaign on ZBM the Government engaged in, what can only be described as a calculated and deliberate attempt to force ZBM into prohibiting the People’s Campaign from appearing on the television.

“The actions of this Government and the lengths that they appear willing to go represent a serious attack on two of the most fundamental pillars of any ‘democratic’ society- Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of the Press.

“The fact that this action is being sanctioned by the Cabinet who have taken the unprecedented step to pay for the legal fees in this matter, is indicative of this Government’s practice of putting their own personal self interest above the public good and enshrines as official policy of this Government the silencing of public discourse, and dissent in Bermuda.

“The authors of this action are engaging in a vicious and vindictive effort to suppress and silence free speech on this island, and to intimidate and scare people by making a scapegoat of Mr. Hayward, and any who dare to question them.

“Neither this nor any other action legal or otherwise will redeem the character of this Government nor will it silence the voice of the people,” said the statement, which was signed by Rev. Nicholas Tweed, Jason Hayward, and Chris Furbert.

Update 4.55pm: In response, Minister Richards said, “The matter is before the courts and therefore sub judice. I have no comment at this time.”

Update 5.38pm: OBA Chair Lynne Woolridge said, “There is no effort to suppress freedom of speech, and for the leaders of the People’s Campaign to say so is nothing more than an effort to mislead the public and position their spokesman Jason Hayward as a victim.

“Mr. Hayward repeatedly made unsolicited defamatory comments about Finance Minister Bob Richards during a broadcast on ZBM TV that was paid for by the People’s Campaign.

“No one is impinging Mr. Hayward’s right to free speech. But an action has been launched to hold him to account for the words he spoke. Free speech does not mean people are free to slander and defame others. There is a reason those words exist, and the courts are there to protect people from such abuse.

“There are a number of untruths in the People’s Campaign statement that we believe the public should be aware of,” Senator Woolridge said, adding that, “The accusation that the Government tried “to force ZBM into prohibiting the People’s Campaign from appearing on the television” is a falsehood that the People’s Campaign are trying to exaggerate into an all-out attack on freedom of the press.”

“In conclusion, it is disappointing but not now surprising that the People’s Campaign have used their statement today to fabricate and prevaricate. If they don’t know they are doing it, then all the more reason for concern,” concluded Senator Woolridge.

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  1. Is this a joke? says:

    The country has a $2bn deficit and the best we can do is to attack those trying to plug the hole?

    Young voters are watching this and we are not at all interested in histrionics–we wish to see forward vision and problem solving analytics and skills.

    This ongoing churn and spin will lose an election..

    Young voters are watching and are egaged in the issues of today!!!

    • ReALLyBettty says:

      Freedom of Speech is key in any modern Democracy.

      “Freedom of speech is the right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.”–Wikipedia

      Governments should not restrict Freedom of Speech in any modern Society to due so borders more on North Korean style of governing. OBA in their constant laws sues to Silence the People

      The People MUST stand together to ensure that they have the right to speak….in most countries worldwide a Government allows persons the freedom of speech…..without worrying about been taken to court…………..really

      • hmmm says:

        People do have a right to speak, that is not in question here.

        What happens when people use that right to intentionally damage another person is what is in question.

        Betty…Defamation, libel and slander are all parts of democracy worldwide.

        • it needs to look up the definition first and then try to alter Webster or which ever dictionary ( big word ) it chooses into PLPPC spin

          • Maybe PLP should’ve been a bunch of babies and done the same thing when UBP accused them.
            Well they’ll get their chance in a couple of years.
            Jason will get off like Mark

          • hmmm says:

            I find Betty Trump disgusting. One single aim… repeat lies and misinformation and hope it sticks.

            You wonder what’s in it for them financially. Paid to fool people perhaps.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        So when the OBA takes someone to court for making unsubstantiated claims of corruption against a sitting Minister on a paid broadcast, passing them as news worthy fact, they are North Korea, but when the PLP spends hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to silence the Mid Ocean from reporting on their unethical activities…
        Please do enlighten us about where you Betties Stood for on that. While you are waiting for your response from Alaska Hall, look up defamation laws in democratic countries and try and find one that will let you get away with damaging a person’s reputation with false accusations without repercussions.

      • Rights for All says:

        The OBA has allowed “the people” to shout slogans while they invade the Senate; gather on the House and Senate grounds in an unofficial workstoppage and march on Government House, as three examples. Hardly “suppressing the people”.

        Keep posting though as it provides a window into the current PLP mindset, which has no ideas for helping Bernuda or provide jobs for Bermudians, just seeking to cause the overthrow of a Government elected by the people. Ironic?

  2. A Dingo says:

    Can they just drop the laughable pretence and change the organization’s name to the ‘PLPeople’s Campaign’? It would be more accurate but, then, I suppose they’ve never been big on accuracy.

    • CBA says:

      Just come out and admit it already – the People’s Campaign and the leaders of the various unions are all trying to make the Government look bad because they want the PLP back in power.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      So effectively, the PC believe that people should be allowed to make up accusations about anyone, without actual evidence to back up their claims, spout them on public airwaves and not have to face any repercussions. To them, freedom of speech and press shouldn’t come with responsibilities. To the PC, freedom of speech and press doesn’t mean you need actual facts when you talk, just so long as you say what they want you to. Let’s face it, where were the PC when the PLP spent hundreds of thousands of our dollars to silence the press over BHC. Let’s face it, the PC has no purpose other than whatever purpose their Alaska Hall oligarchy gives them.

  3. Sad says:

    Nowhere does the right exist to slander and malign people with untruthful accusations.

    The TV station which you paid for your diatribe apologised for the misleading boradcast an accusations.

    You guys are by above the law and basic decency just because you claim to be for the people (whatever that means).

    And no it isn’t unprecedented as the Govt paid out $30kbto a Canadian law firm to defend Dr. Brown an Mr. Burgess. So once again you are spewing misinformation.

    • Sad says:

      *you guys are NOT above the law…

    • Sad says:

      And yes I read the documents presented in that program.

      And not one of them painted a picture of underhanded activity that you guys tried to insinuate on your paid program.

      Again, someone please explain why the TV station had to apologise for the broadcast, but these guys think they are above the law an claim anything willy nilly?

      And your last sentence above highlights the fact that you were never a group aimed at bettering the political realm of BDA.

      You’re nothing but a shameless attack dog for the Opposition.

  4. jt says:

    It was only a matter of time.

    • hmmm says:

      Wonder when Tweed work permit expires, Reverands are 10 a penny.

  5. SHM says:

    So within the last 5 days the PLP have come out with
    -Marc Bean accuses the OBA of lying over incident at polling station
    -A press conference against the development for St. George’s
    -A press conference to get an inquiry on MPs (based on someone who seems to have stolen $18M’s statement )
    -An article saying the Premier is not in touch with Bermudians
    -A press conference about BTA’s remuneration
    -A press conference about visitor arrivals
    -An upcoming town hall meeting on the airport
    - Peoples? Campaign comes out with a statement on free speech
    Why all this mania all of a sudden??? LOL

  6. hmmm says:

    Conflict of Interests

    Jason Hayward has signed this letter as part of the peoples campaign.

    Jason Hayward is the defendant in a legal action.

    Using this public media and others portals in an attempt to mitigate self is disgusting.

  7. Progressive says:

    I’ve already written this somewhere else, but it’s equally appropriate here:

    It is crucial that we as an island hold those making these serious accusations responsible for their words. If you make an accusation, regardless whether it is true or not, there must be proof. Otherwise, it is clear that you made this malicious accusation without really knowing what the truth was in the first place.

    It is no better than a rumour in the schoolyard. And if we operate on that basis, we’re in trouble.

    And again, it is perfectly reasonable that the government funds this kind of defence, to prevent politicians only being able to defend their reputation on the basis of their previous wealth. What kind of fair society is that? Do we want a society where only the wealthy can afford to be politically active? PLP ministers in the PAC approved a similar proposal in 2014, so there is clearly agreement to this on both sides. When it suits them at least.

  8. serengeti says:

    If the People’s Campaign were run by a person who hadn’t just recently got here he would know that paying legal fees like this is not an “unprecedented step”. The government paid Ewart Brown’s and Derrick Burgess’s legal fees, after all.

    Oh, and who else signs the above ‘People’s campaign’ release…none other than Jason Hayward. No surprise that he is against the government suing, given than he is the one being sued.

    Laughable. What a bunch of know-nothing misfits.

  9. Navin Johnson says:

    Oops my fault I mention the People Popular Front and out he comes after spending time in hibernation…..ignore them all

  10. Busy says:

    How is the People’s Campaign funded? I see that they sponsored the “Let’s Talk” program. Do the Unions fund it? Just wondering…

    • hmmm says:

      I think we’d all like to know how the Peoples campaign is funded and also if the Reverand, Furburt and Hayward are conducting “the Peoples Campaign business” in working hours when they should be doing their normal jobs.

      • Why does it matter says:

        I mean why does it matter how they are funded? It’s not your money they are spending! If people want to give their money to the PC that’s on them!

        And I’m pretty sure you’ve done other work on company time! Reading Bernews and commenting all day surely isn’t a good use of job productivity

        • hmmm says:

          If it is from the Union dues it matters. If it is funded by the PLP it matters.

        • islandgal says:

          I love the response you’ve given to hmmm. Hmmm posts are all day every day.

  11. Jeremy Deacon says:

    If you call someone corrupt, you have to have the proof. The only thing I agree with is the use of public funds ….

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      I kind of also think that it is freedom of speech on their terms?

  12. Tolerate says:

    Right on queue. It’s almost to the point you can set your watch by it.

  13. O'Brien says:

    This press release is self-serving, highly misleading and betrays a fundamental ignorance of the law.

    Let’s consider the salient facts. A TV station allowed this group use of its airwaves to reveal the findings of a Canadian freedom of information request it had made regarding CCC and the airport redevelopment. During the course of the live broadcast, the group (and one member in particular) made a number of scandalous accusations concerning the conduct of the Finance Minister — none of which were remotely substantiated when the documents were subsequently placed in the public domain.

    Now, let’s consider the PC’s arguments:
    1. Freedom of speech – of course Mr Hayward has a right to express his opinions about Mr Richards and the OBA, that’s not in dispute. But that right is not unlimited. One important limitation is the law of defamation. The law regards reputation as an important individual interest and gives it protection. You may dislike me, and say so in public, but if you make an allegation that tends to lower my standing in the estimation of others you had better be able to prove it. Otherwise, I will have a cause of action against you in defamation. There is nothing unusual or undemocratic about this. It’s the law and has been for centuries.

    2. Singling out Jason Hayward – the fact is that he made the comments that are complained of. It does not matter whether they represent his ‘personal or private view’. Nor is it relevant that he made his remarks as a representative of the PC – the important fact is that he made them. Moreover, I doubt the PC has any legal entity status, so it is unlikely that it could be sued in its own right even if the Minister wanted to.

    3. The comments were not aimed at Mr Richards’ character – again, this reveals an ignorance of the law. It does not matter whether the allegations concerned the Minister’s private or public life, as both are aspects of his reputation. Just because you say that Mr Richards did something untoward in his capacity as Minister and not as private citizen, the allegations are as likely to harm his reputation if they are believed. Thus, the law of defamation is engaged just the same.

    • NCM says:

      Thank you, O’Brien for your excellent summation. However, it seems clear whomever is advising these lot have no idea of the law and it’s application when it comes to defamation. Is the Reverend even allowed to participate in these things? i.e. is he acting outside of the terms of his work permit?

  14. North Rock says:

    How come Chris and Tweedie and Jason always have that look on their faces…the one that’s so damn serious and makes it seem that what they do is more important than anything anyone else does…SMILE fellas !

    • frank says:

      the peoples campaign don’t speak for me in fact I see it as a distraction
      furbert needs to to what the members pay him to do and that is to run the BIU
      mr Hayward needs to do his job at BPSU
      rev. tweed needs to do his job at his church
      and stop trying to sound and act like he has been to the mountain top
      people campaign is a waste of time

  15. Are those the next 2 leaders of our failing country?

  16. Ringmaster says:

    “This is the latest episode in an ongoing campaign conducted by this government to undermine, stifle, and suppress not only free speech but to also suppress the freedom of the press.

    Wow. What rubbish but maybe the Peoples Campaign have forgotten now Dr. E Brown spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees against the Mid Ocean News to try and prevent them printing evidence of unethical (being polite) behavior, and how he announced “one down one to go” when the Mid Ocean closed. That is suppression. There is absolutely nothing here to suggest Mr. Richards or the OBA is suppressing freedom of the press. Just more lies.

    • Jeremy Deacon says:

      Oh yes …. the hypocrisy is astounding …. but that is their MO: rewrite/ignore history ….

  17. 32n64w says:

    The People’s Campaign endorses the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that no one shall be subjected “to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

    Why the double standard Messrs. Furbert and Tweed?

    Furthermore Mr. Hayward made these comments over public airwaves so the argument that his remarks were private or personal in nature holds no water.

    This is just another example of the combined opposition’s attempts to put their personal political interests ahead of the voters through a sustained campaign of disinformation. What a total betrayal of the public’s trust.

    • Zevon says:

      The People’s Campaign doesn’t care about human rights. Human rights are subserviant to their wish to be able to ruin anyone’s reputation whenever they feel like it. They think they are above the law.

  18. Jurist says:

    Vote PLP, vote poverty.

    • Conspiracy Theory says:

      Well said Jurist. This would make a good campaign slogan come election time.

  19. Just a matter of time says:

    I still would like to know what it was that Mr. Hayward was to have allegedly said for the entire Govt as a collective to go after one individual. I say as a collective because he has the backing of Cabinet and the Premier. Because whatever was said clearly has had no real impact on a local or international scale. Does anyone remember? Was it that powerful that it shakes up the Minister this way with the backing of Cabinet? Are they giving Mr. Hayward that much power? I guess so. I do know that having this all come out in court draws attention to it on a large scale moreso up to now and can backfire in a big way for the OBA. David vs Goliath. Don’t underestimate people power Mimister Richards. You experienced that at Pier 6. Does the Minister really want this battle?Because honestly I do not recall anything Mr. Hayward said on that program being that earth shattering. In fact much of those finer details I don’t remember. Chances are there are many more who think the same way. Sounds more like a personal vendetta and does the Govt really want to wage that battle with so much else going on? Distractions distractions. Such a waste of time and tax payers money. David vs Goliath. We all know how that story ended up.

  20. I get the distinct impression the Rev is here as a GUEST Worker. If so perhaps he should look in his own backyard first

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Others have been escorted to the airport for far less.

      Imigration, DO YOUR JOB.

      • why does it matter says:

        You’re quick to call immigration (Check your spelling) do your job but are you out there speaking on the injustices of the people and for the record NO I am not a People’s Campaign support BUT i am a SUPPORT of people who ensure that my best interest is being protected! This whole lawsuit is a waste of time IMO

  21. Northshore says:

    How stupid does one have to be before they stop and shut up. Do they even watch themselves? Does Tweed, Furbert even know how much they put their foot in their mouth?
    Its shocking how anybody follows these two!

    Who is Tweed anyway?

  22. Coffee says:

    Nothing /Nobody offends that particular minister then when a strong young intelligent black man speaks against him or outshines him .

  23. Mark says:

    Guess the clowns are all back from their summer holidays.

  24. C says:

    Is this action really necessary. Here we are grumbling about the debt and now going to court like a bunch of school kids. Grow the hell up you lot and do what you were put there to do .

  25. UmJustSaying says:

    “If you’re not going to use your free speech to criticize your own government, then what the hell is the point of having it?”
    ― Michel Templet

  26. Anyone read the note after Jason Hayward bpsu article?…….