The husband and wife team who publish the Cayman Compass, the island’s oldest newspaper, have fled for their own protection because they ran a critical editorial June 3 on the international soccer federation scandal.
The island’s premier, Alden McLaughlin, called the opinion piece “reckless … treasonous attack on the Cayman Islands and on all the people of Cayman.” Then the island’s legislature voted to strip the newspaper of government advertising.
The editorial suggested that the government acted rather slowly in responding to accusations of alleged bribery and corruption within the International Federation of Football Associations and specifically against Jeffrey Webb, head of the local association and president of the football confederation which comprises North America, Central America and the Caribbean, according to the Inter American Press Association. Webb was arrested on May 27.
The newspaper said that corruption was so prevalent in the Cayman Islands that it called it “an insidious common crime.”
The Inter American Press Association said it expressed concern and condemned the fact that legislators had approved withdrawal of official advertising in retaliation for an editorial that criticized the premier and local officials.
Press association President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Perú, newspaper La República, condemned “the lack of independence of the legislators who, in order to ingratiate themselves with the premier, approved the suspension of placing official advertising and any other commercial activity with the islands’ sole newspaper, directly impacting freedom of expression and the people’s right to have access to information of public interest.”
The chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, referred to “the abuse of privilege and the manipulation of the legislature over an editorial denouncing corruption.” He declared that “the placement of official advertising should not be used to award or punish media or journalists,” as established by the Declaration of Chapultepec, in its Principle 7.
McLaughlin accused the newspaper of having carried out “a full frontal assault on the Cayman Islands and its people,” and supported the economic sanctions against it.
Cayman Compass co-publishers David R. Legge and his wife, Vikki, were placed under police protection, and by the weekend had left the country for the United States Saturday, his newspaper reported.
“The premier must be aware of the irony of his remarks,” Mr. Legge was quoted as saying in his newspaper. “The editorial to which he took such umbrage addresses the need to eliminate corruption in the Cayman Islands (and by inference, elsewhere). Mr. McLaughlin himself campaigned in no small measure on the exact same theme in the run-up to his election in 2013.
“Further, the editorial was in perfect harmony with remarks to be delivered yesterday by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron to the heads of the G7 countries meeting in Germany. According to the BBC, Mr. Cameron was to urge a ‘global crackdown on the “cancer” of corruption.’
“In Mr. Cameron’s words: ‘We just don’t talk enough about corruption. This has got to change. We have to show some of the same courage that exposed FIFA and break the international taboo on pointing the finger at corrupt institutions.’
“He concluded: ‘World leaders simply cannot dodge this issue any longer.’”
The newspaper said in a news story:
The Compass editorial, entitled ‘Corruption: An insidious, creeping crime’ stated the following in its second paragraph: “Whether it’s securing a vehicular inspection sticker, an exemption to development regulations, approval for work permits, the support of a particular bloc of voters, or, allegedly, millions of dollars in bribes in relation to sporting events – lurking behind the scenes are shadows of impropriety, influence and inscrutability. Because such behavior is so commonplace, we tend to ‘normalize it,’ refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is. In the 1990s, U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called this ‘defining deviancy down.’ In Cayman, we’re more likely to attribute such behavior to ‘cultural differences.’”