The legislature of the Cayman Islands voted to pull all government-paid advertising from the territory’s largest newspaper after the publication of what leaders said was an unfair editorial decrying corruption.

 

In a June 8 vote, 11 legislators of the 13-member Legislative Assembly passed a motion to cease doing business with the Cayman Compass newspaper and its parent company, Pinnacle Media Incorporated. Two other lawmakers abstained.

The source of the lawmakers’ ire was a June 3 editorial titled “Corruption: an insidious, creeping crime,” which accused officials of being largely indifferent to what the newspaper described as widespread corruption.

“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,” the editorial stated.

It did not make detailed accusations against specific individuals or groups, but Premier Alden McLaughlin said he believed that the statements were “treasonous” and could hurt the islands’ financial services industry if a reputation for corruption takes root.

“In these difficult days and in the weeks to come, when the world’s attention is trained on us, it is important for all of us in Cayman, but especially those in leadership and in the press, to maintain our dignity and to protect what we have worked so hard to build up – not by ignoring a problem or covering up, but by standing firm in what we know to be true and resisting the cheap thrill of sensationalism,” he said.

Following the accusations of treason, the newspaper’s publisher David Legge and his wife claimed they were placed under protective guard by Cayman police and left the territory temporarily for the United States.

However, some Cayman residents and the competing Cayman News Service criticised the Legges’ flight as unnecessary melodrama.

The advertising ban remains in place, but last Thursday the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce called for its repeal, urging for “freedom of speech to be respected.”

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