Joint Statement by the Media Working Group - February 1, 2011 PDF Print Email

Re: Launch date, Media Council of Bermuda

Joint Statement by the Media Working Group

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2011: The Media Council of Bermuda officially becomes active tomorrow, Wednesday, February 2.

The move ushers in a new era of heightened responsibility and accountability for the media while protecting freedom of expression from government oversight.

For the first time, media outlets in Bermuda have come together to formally recognize that our freedom to report and comment is a gift from the public that carries considerable responsibilities.

The Council’s role is to serve the public by providing a free remedy for those instances in which a complaint against the media might not be legally actionable, but raises important issues of professional practice.

The complaints procedure is straightforward, swift and less daunting than the expensive court route. A new website — www.mediacouncilofbermuda.org — goes live tomorrow and provides a full explanation of the process.

As previously reported, the Council will be chaired by lawyer Christian Luthi. He is joined on an eight-person panel by C. Wendell Emery (deputy chairman), Tom Vesey, Charles H. Webbe, Qian Dickinson, Kelly Francis, Rebecca Davies and Amanda Outerbridge. They were chosen by a three-member Appointments Committee after public appeals for volunteers.

Twenty local media outlets have signed-up in support of the Media Council initiative and agreed to adopt a common Code of Practice. All complaints must identify specifically where the Code has allegedly been breached.

On the eve of the official launch, chairman Mr. Luthi said: “It is hoped that through the adoption of the Code of Practice the media has set a standard for itself that will continue to improve the quality of journalism in Bermuda and provide an objective mechanism for the resolution of disputes.

“The Code has as its core principles, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public’s right to know. It seeks to strike the balance between the freedom of the press and the private rights of the individual.”

We had promised a mid-September 2010 launch but the extensive preparatory work we undertook — as volunteers who also hold full-time jobs — was more time-consuming than we anticipated. Though the Council’s members were appointed in October, we still had structural and administrative work to complete and the Christmas period added to the delay.

The formation of the Council has required an extraordinary level of commitment and collaboration from all of those involved and despite the delay, we’re delighted to be able to announce tomorrow’s official launch date.

As previously stated, the Media Council will not hear retroactive complaints, only those relating to stories that appear from the launch date (February 2) onwards. The Council starts with a clean slate and will deal with the present and future, rather than what happened in the past.

The twenty local media outlets that have signed-up in support of the Media Council of Bermuda and agreed to adopt a common Code of Practice are: Bermuda.com; Bermudabiographies.com; Bermuda Broadcasting Company; Bermuda Media; The Bermudian Publishing Company; Bermuda Sports Network; Bermuda Sun; Bermuda Wired; Bermynet; Bernews; BlackAndCoke.com; Breezeblog; DeFontes Broadcasting Company; Inter-Island Communications; Islandstats.com; LookTV; LTT Broadcasting Company; The Royal Gazette; VATV; The Worker’s Voice.

Summing up the Council’s role, chairman Mr. Luthi said: “While the public has a right to see that matters in the public interest are brought to their attention by a free press, just as importantly the public has a right to see that proper standards of reporting are adhered to. The Council looks forward to the challenges ahead.”

The media are a powerful force in our community and we claim significant privileges as we seek to hold others to account. The Media Council will help make us more accountable to the public we serve and in doing so, strengthen our vital role in our island democracy.

NOTE: For anyone who has a complaint against the media, the first step is to contact the relevant editor/news director/website manager. See contact information at www.mediacouncilofbermuda.org (the site goes live tomorrow). A reasonable approach from both parties can often bring swift resolution without having to involve the Media Council. If a complaint cannot be resolved in this way, contact the Council’s Executive Officer, Meredith Ebbin: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , tel: 236-7043 (weekdays, during office hours).

Background:

Moves to establish the Media Council of Bermuda began in earnest in May of last year, in response to then-Premier Dr. Ewart Brown’s tabling, in the House of Assembly, of the Media Council Bill. The bill, which proposed a statutory media council with a majority of members appointed by the Governor after consultation with the government — but paid for by the media — raised concerns about the prospect of political interference in the dissemination of news.

The Media Working Group met with Cabinet on June 29, 2010 to outline its plans and on July 19, Premier Brown announced in the House of Assembly that the government would not proceed with the Media Council Bill in the current parliamentary session, adding that it would remain at the disposal of legislators in the next.

The Media Working Group is hopeful and confident that the establishment of the independent, self-regulatory Media Council of Bermuda will both negate the need for legislation and better serve the needs of the people of Bermuda.

The Media Working Group:

  • Thaao Dill (Inter-Island Communications)
  • Chris Lodge (DeFontes Broadcasting Co.)
  • Tony McWilliam (Bermuda Sun)
  • Tracey Neale (Bermuda Broadcasting Co.)
  • Bill Zuill (The Royal Gazette)
 
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