Moderating the comments
One of the most glaring impediments to progress in the Cayman Islands is the fact that large sections of society feel intimidated about speaking publicly on issues, and this is never so apparent as during election time.
A few years ago, both local newspapers decided to insist that letter writers give their names and contact details. CNS has on several occasions been urged to adopt the same policy but I do not feel that the Cayman Islands is ready for this while recriminations – real or perceived – for weighing in on the issues of the day exist.
To start with, free speech is denied to civil servants, who are expressly forbidden to show support for a particular candidate, or to make public their views on candidates or political issues. Most people living here on a work permit, as well as business owners who depend on work permit holders, are allowed to voice their opinions but nevertheless are reluctant to do so, believing that their livelihoods would be threatened, and whether their fears are legitimate or not is less relevant than the fact that their voices are silenced.
Many residents are unwilling to draw criticism by identifying themselves in what is still a small community, and in some cases fear actual physical harm. An exchange on one thread by single mothers expressing their fears about the rising violence for themselves and their children was particularly poignant, and was yet another conformation that a platform in which people can write freely and anonymously is much needed in these islands.
On the other hand, while free speech is a cherished right in any democracy, it is never without some qualifiers, and every country that sees itself as democratic must try to find a balance between free speech and other rights, such as the right not to be the target of hate speech, discrimination, defamation of character, etc. (See this New York Times article about the different approaches to this in the US, Europe and Canada)
However, without any laws in the Cayman Islands governing hate speech or discrimination, the threat of a libel suit appears to be the only restriction as to what is published in the media. Therefore, it is up to the individual media houses to determine what is acceptable and what is not.
Which brings me to the comments on CNS and how they are moderated. Our comment policy is posted here. However, it probably needs a little elaboration, not to mention the opportunity for readers to comment on the policy and its application.
As the policy says, a comment that is made by someone who has the courage to put their name to it has much greater impact and we encourage those who really care about the Cayman Islands to stand up for what they believe in. Still, for all the reasons listed above, most people comment anonymously, Sadly, when people are brave enough to use their own name they are often rewarded with some pretty nasty responses. Therefore, following a discussion with Twyla, one of our most frequent commenters, we have developed a new rule: you can disagree with people who identify themselves ... but be nice, especially if you hide behind anonymity.
Occasionally we get comments that cross the line in some parts but are otherwise interesting. In these cases I replace the offending sections with “XXXXXXX” instead of deleting the whole thing. Comments written in bold, which somehow suggests that it is more important than other comments, are changed to normal, and comments written with the caps lock on, which is annoying, are generally just deleted. Otherwise, comments are not edited and spelling and grammar are left as they are written. If a comment is unintelligible – the litmus test; I read it twice and have no clue what it means – it is deleted. Strangely, a lot of comments posted late Friday or Saturday night fall into this category.
By running for public office, politicians and would-be politicians open themselves up to greater scrutiny than other citizens, but as we get closer to election time and emotions start to run high, deciding what is legitimate opinion or dissent and where to draw the line is often a hard decision. Added to this, as a few people have noted, some comments supposedly written by regular CNS readers may in fact be written by the campaigns themselves. And while, if true, this is reprehensible, it is impossible to prove and hard to eliminate. Nevertheless, I have deleted some anonymous comments that seem ridiculously puerile, that anonymously accuse candidates or incumbents of corruption, or if I feel fairly certain that it was “planted”.
Public figures – a difficult term to define in such a small community – are legitimate subjects of public dialogue, especially if they accept a large salary from the public purse. Given the perception that some high level government positions are filled for reasons other than merit or that sometimes foreigners are given senior civil service jobs that could be filled locally, a free public discussion of senior appointments and their performance is justified. But just as the line between opinion and insult can be hard to pinpoint, so too can the difference between information and gossip, and whether I have always made the right decision is likely also open for debate.
When it comes to crime, moderating the comments can be particularly difficult. For one thing, people always seem to know more than the police have released. However, if the police ask us not to post such comments I comply with the request, at least until that information is made public.
Suspects of high profile crimes are always reviled in comments, but however damning the evidence appears to be (and whatever people believe to the contrary) people are innocent until proven guilty under the law and I cannot approve comments that assume their guilt – though some of them are heartbreaking in their grief and the writers have my fullest sympathy. I would ask people to word their comments carefully at such times. Comments about the victims or the victims’ families are sometimes deleted just because they seem to be unduly hurtful to people who are already suffering.
If I could make one request to those posting comments – if you are unwilling to use your real name it would be helpful to give yourself a “user name”, since arguments between a bunch of people who sign themselves “Anonymous” can get confusing.
Public dialogue is an essential part of the democratic process and the CNS comments seem to have become an important tool for debate between the people who live here. Perhaps the proportion of commenters who use their real name as opposed to those who remain afraid to do so can become a gauge of the progress freedom of expression in the Cayman Islands.
- On Sales : Samsung Galaxy SIV / Apple iPhone 5 64GB
- Sales On: Apple iPhone 5 32GB, Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III / Galaxy S4 Buy 2 get 1 free
- Affordable South Side Home for Sale
- house for rent
- car for sale
- Samsung Galaxy S4 19500 16GB Unlocked
- **Botanical Slimming MSV - Strong Version***
- South Side Beach House for Sale
- 3.05 acres of Bluff land
- Large Spot Bay beach lot
The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of CNS or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by CNS. Read more
- You in 80% of cases your
2 hours 34 min ago
- Agree to a large extent --
2 hours 38 min ago
- That is terrible, I
2 hours 41 min ago
- I disagree CNS. How about
2 hours 45 min ago
- We have the legislation, it
2 hours 45 min ago
- The unfortunate thing is
2 hours 48 min ago
2 hours 54 min ago
- We have no idea whether
2 hours 55 min ago
- Ummm. Haven't you heard of
2 hours 57 min ago
- This sort of radical feminism
2 hours 59 min ago