UBP & IPL: Concerns Over Proposed Media Council

May 17, 2010

Both the United Bermuda Party [UBP] and the International Press Institute have released statements expressing concerns over the proposed media council bill, which seeks to effectively create a governing body for the press. As it is constituted presently, the council will contain a Government majority with five of the twelve remaining members of the council being chosen by members of the local media.

The council will be funded entirely by the media, with costs as of yet not established.

Entities included in the original bill included the Bermuda Sun, Royal Gazette and related entities, Workers Voice, CITV, Fresh TV, Onion TV, BBC [ZBM, ZFB, 1230AM, 1340AM, FM 89, 105 FM, Power 95], Inter Island and Defontes [VSB, 106 FM, 1340 AM]. At the press conference on the subject, the Premier stated that “online media” will be added in.

United Bermuda Party Deputy Leader Trevor Moniz said:

We have grave concerns and reservations about the Media Council Act as tabled in the House of Assembly by the Government.

The legislation, if approved as drafted, would position government to shut down reportage and opinion on any subject; in effect suppressing what people hear, say, read or write.

As such, the proposed legislation constitutes a threat to free speech in Bermuda. All Bermuda should be alarmed that their government could put forward such a dangerous plan.

We support the concept of a media council, but believe it should be self-regulating and governed by a clearly established set of principles.

The International Press Institute is not a local entity, but a global network of editors, media executives and journalists dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism. Founded in 1950, IPI has grown into a global organisation with members in more than 120 countries.

They stated:

The Bermudan [sic] government has drafted a controversial media bill that appears to have more in common with the media legislation of some of the repressive governments in Latin America, than with the First Amendment tradition of one of its close trading partners, the United States.

IPI Director David Dadge said:

I would encourage the Bermudan government to withhold this bill from Parliament and to go back to holding a dialogue with the local media

The IPL statement continued on to say:

Having examined the draft bill, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network for a free media, believes it to be deeply flawed. If enacted, it will have a detrimental impact on the media environment in Bermuda as well as the reputation of the Bermudan government.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Governor of Bermuda is empowered to choose six members of the Council as well as a chairman.

Given the fact that there are only a further five media representatives, the Bill would appear to have a bias that jeopardises not only the Council’s decision-making process, but also any future code of practice for the media.

Most worryingly, Section 15 (3) (d) contains a powerful prior restraint clause enabling the Council to prevent the publication and broadcasting of “any news, or comment on the news, that is the subject of the complaint.”

Due to the bias inherent within the Council, this power could be abused to prevent the free flow of information within Bermuda and might be used by complainants to prevent investigative journalism.

You can read the full IPL release here, and the full media council bill here [12 page PDF].

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  1. Media Council Act To Apply To Internet? | Bernews.com | May 18, 2010
  1. elbee says:

    Wow a government-appointed media council with the power to forbid newspapers from publishing certain stories. What could possibly go wrong?