Calls for a freedom of information law in the territory are of “great interest” to Governor Daniel Pruce, but the matter has not been “live” during his time in his role so far, he said Friday.

Leaders of successive Virgin Islands governments — including Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley — have promised to pass a FOI act since the now-disbanded Law Reform Commission drafted one about 20 years ago, but it has never been tabled in the House of Assembly.

Asked about FOI proposals as he marked World Press Freedom Day with journalists on Friday, the governor said, “That is not an issue that has been live during my first three months in this role. But, obviously, when it does … come across my desk, it will be something I will be considering with a great deal of interest — not least given my interest in media freedom, transparency and access to information.”

Mr. Pruce, who was a former head of communications at the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said a free press is vital for democracy.

“I have worked closely with the media throughout my 30 years in the British diplomatic service and in particular when I was the British government’s spokesman at the European Union in Brussels and then again when I worked as one of Tony Blair’s press team during his time as prime minister in the UK.”

‘Enormous respect’

He added that he has “enormous respect” for the work done by the press and said he wants to use his role to support the media in the territory.

“As governor here in the Virgin Islands, I am committed to media freedom, to transparency in everything I do, and in supporting the free flow of information,” he said.

The press, he added, shoulders important responsibilities: “holding the powerful to account; speaking up for those who have no voice; ensuring the proper application of the fundamental principles common to any free society, including the rule of law; protection of human rights and freedom of speech.”

A free press, he said, also serves as a bulwark against tyranny.

“It is one of my favourite quotes from the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, who said, ‘A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize. It is the most dangerous foe of tyranny.’”

Journalists in danger

Mr. Pruce also noted the dangers that journalists face across the globe.

“Sadly, around the world we see journalists and media organisations targeted and harassed,” he said, adding, “The International Federation of Journalists in 2023 reported that 94 journalists had been killed and almost 400 others had been imprisoned.”

Mr. Pruce encouraged the VI media to live up to high standards.

“The professional standards of courageous, objective fact-based journalism have never been more important,” he said. “I hope everyone here in the Virgin Islands continues to recognise and support journalistic freedom so that the media are free to carry out their important role in our society.”