Walter Roban, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs *File photo
Walter Roban, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs *File photo

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: The Progressive Labour Party (PLP) demands the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government show more respect for freedom of speech and the Press which they appear to have little patience for since becoming the government.

The OBA government seems short on appreciation for the freedoms many hard working Bermudians have struggled to achieve over decades. Specifically, the freedom of expression and freedom of the Press.

We have already seen a trend of Ministers refusing to disclose information on the public is entitled to and only doing so after pressure and a repeat of their actions of their refusal to answer tough press questions by shutting down a press conference.

The latest antics were seen in the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs  at a Wednesday January 30 press conference related to the elimination of the Term Limit Policy, revealing on camera a disturbing trend of the OBA  being unable to handle criticism from of members of the public who frequent talk radio programmes and online blogs. The following quote from the Minister is revealing:

“…The recent online blogs and talk radio shows have been rampant with this negative rhetoric …And regrettably we don’t have suitable mechanisms in place to properly police some of these anonymous rants…” — Minister of Home Affairs, January 30, 2013

We note that the new Minister and the OBA were silent on their concerns of this same behaviour while Opposition and the strength and negativity of the criticism in both of these public forums when it was not directed at them but the previous PLP administration and persons associated with them.

This is outright hypocrisy on the part of the OBA administration. We are appalled by the Minister’s reference to “…mechanisms to police…” at what he called “anonymous rants”. 

This appears to us to be a naked attack on freedom of speech which citizens have come to cherish over the last 15 years. The PLP was admittedly the subject of compliments and criticism throughout its tenure but the rights and freedom of persons to express themselves was always respected. Now that the tide has turned not in their favour the OBA government suggests a need to “police” free speech? 

The Minister and the new government once again showed disdain and disrespect for the valuable role of the Press as the Minister of Home Affairs appears attempting to shut down and limit the questions of a journalist at the press conference held at the A B Place Media Room. 

This was reminiscent of an incident with the OBA Leader in a similar incident prior to the general election.

This is a disturbing trend of behaviour to total disrespect and hostility to confronting the touch questions legitimately present by the media.

This hypocritical behaviour is a mockery of the transparency, honour and integrity that is required of any government.

Disrespecting the role of the media by shutting down a press conference or attacking free speech will not remove the need for answers from this OBA government for their growing list of broken promises or allow them to mislead a public who is entitled to answers.

This will not deter the Progressive Labour Party from making sure the OBA government is held accountable.

• Walter H. Roban is the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs