Categorized | Local

Freedom of Expression, ‘cornerstone of democracy’, taken seriously

By B. Roach

David S Brandt

On Tuesday morning ZJB radio opened up its telephone lines and allowed  listeners to vent their views on the news that ZJB radio was being advised to withhold ‘paid statements’ from publication, pending procedural reviews of such matters.

The situation arose out of a statement made by Attorney at Law and former Chief Minister of Montserrat David S Brandt on October 26, 2010, which had been cleared by the Attorney General, with the comments, “…I can find no law that allows the transmission of such a statement to be stopped.”

Since that and following the aired statement there were further developments and concerns that caused the Attorney General to further advise the Chief Minister, who reacted courteously, but negatively. The AG had written, “I would advise that no further ‘paid statements’ are accepted. …I would suggest further, that ZJB announces the fact that a new regulatory structure is being developed and that until it is in place, it will not be able to accept any independent statements for broadcast.”

In the meantime it became evident that the ZJB manager had been asked to make an apology in respect of maters relating to the Brandt Statement.

Mr. Brandt had then issued a comment/statement to the radio station, which was barred from publication, until it was aired on Monday along with other comments on the issue, which was viewed by most as matter of urgency that there was an attempt to ‘suppress freedom of expression.’ The comments were varied making references the just past Constitution Order and seeking clarification of the situation as was described.

The Brandt initial statement made a call to the Chief Minister after he revealed that “Mr. Steve Foster (Commissioner of Police) will be removed as Commissioner and that Mr. Paul Morris (Deputy Commissioner of Police) will take his place.”

He noted that the Governor is “responsible for the police force. “The question arises,” he continued, “in this day and age should we have a white governor, a white attorney general and a white commissioner of police after 44 years!”

He contended, “if Mr. Foster is not performing then advertise the post and if we cannot get a local to fill the post get a person from the region that understands us.”

AG James Wood

As the fall-out from the statement developed, he later made another statement in which he said: “I do not believe that the Chief Minister, under whom Radio Montserrat falls, could have countenanced this egregious action. If it is allowed to be enforced I will have no alternative but to hold mass rallies all over the island, inviting Montserratians at home and abroad to participate.”

The questions to the radio station following the news which was covered extensively in The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) brought about comments which were allowed on the Basil Chambers morning program, aired without comment from the station. The final statement by Brandt was aired in the news and along with comments from the Ag. Governor Sarita Francis, Attorney at Law, Jean Kelsick and myself as editor of TMR, independent media.

The Ag. Governor sought to explain the advice on the non airing of statements. “ZJB has a duty to ensure that persons do not use the station to propound false , misleading, and defamatory comments,” she said adding according to ZJB ,  “it opens government to legal action that could result in significant financial liability.”
Mrs. Francis reportedly further said that the government of Montserrat has been advised to review the procedures and put the necessary checks and balances in place.

Jean Kelsick

Lawyer Jean Kelsick called on the authorities to clear the air on broadcasting of public statement on ZJB radio, making reference to the Brandt statements. “I think now that the Chief Minister and the Attorney General must clear the air publicly, he stated.”

“Any attempt to suppress the right to freedom of expression in any way must be very firmly resisted. After all freedom of expression is the corner stone of any democracy and it is the first line of defense against tyranny.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

By B. Roach

David S Brandt

On Tuesday morning ZJB radio opened up its telephone lines and allowed  listeners to vent their views on the news that ZJB radio was being advised to withhold ‘paid statements’ from publication, pending procedural reviews of such matters.

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The situation arose out of a statement made by Attorney at Law and former Chief Minister of Montserrat David S Brandt on October 26, 2010, which had been cleared by the Attorney General, with the comments, “…I can find no law that allows the transmission of such a statement to be stopped.”

Since that and following the aired statement there were further developments and concerns that caused the Attorney General to further advise the Chief Minister, who reacted courteously, but negatively. The AG had written, “I would advise that no further ‘paid statements’ are accepted. …I would suggest further, that ZJB announces the fact that a new regulatory structure is being developed and that until it is in place, it will not be able to accept any independent statements for broadcast.”

In the meantime it became evident that the ZJB manager had been asked to make an apology in respect of maters relating to the Brandt Statement.

Mr. Brandt had then issued a comment/statement to the radio station, which was barred from publication, until it was aired on Monday along with other comments on the issue, which was viewed by most as matter of urgency that there was an attempt to ‘suppress freedom of expression.’ The comments were varied making references the just past Constitution Order and seeking clarification of the situation as was described.

The Brandt initial statement made a call to the Chief Minister after he revealed that “Mr. Steve Foster (Commissioner of Police) will be removed as Commissioner and that Mr. Paul Morris (Deputy Commissioner of Police) will take his place.”

He noted that the Governor is “responsible for the police force. “The question arises,” he continued, “in this day and age should we have a white governor, a white attorney general and a white commissioner of police after 44 years!”

He contended, “if Mr. Foster is not performing then advertise the post and if we cannot get a local to fill the post get a person from the region that understands us.”

AG James Wood

As the fall-out from the statement developed, he later made another statement in which he said: “I do not believe that the Chief Minister, under whom Radio Montserrat falls, could have countenanced this egregious action. If it is allowed to be enforced I will have no alternative but to hold mass rallies all over the island, inviting Montserratians at home and abroad to participate.”

The questions to the radio station following the news which was covered extensively in The Montserrat Reporter (TMR) brought about comments which were allowed on the Basil Chambers morning program, aired without comment from the station. The final statement by Brandt was aired in the news and along with comments from the Ag. Governor Sarita Francis, Attorney at Law, Jean Kelsick and myself as editor of TMR, independent media.

The Ag. Governor sought to explain the advice on the non airing of statements. “ZJB has a duty to ensure that persons do not use the station to propound false , misleading, and defamatory comments,” she said adding according to ZJB ,  “it opens government to legal action that could result in significant financial liability.”
Mrs. Francis reportedly further said that the government of Montserrat has been advised to review the procedures and put the necessary checks and balances in place.

Jean Kelsick

Lawyer Jean Kelsick called on the authorities to clear the air on broadcasting of public statement on ZJB radio, making reference to the Brandt statements. “I think now that the Chief Minister and the Attorney General must clear the air publicly, he stated.”

“Any attempt to suppress the right to freedom of expression in any way must be very firmly resisted. After all freedom of expression is the corner stone of any democracy and it is the first line of defense against tyranny.