It's not personal. Senior non-Bermudian reporters at the daily paper are being expelled as part of a program of eviscerating the local media in general, and the daily paper specifically. I haven't done anything wrong--in fact, according to the law of the land, I'm well qualified to continue to work there.
Premier Ewart Brown and his unelected henchman, a former underwriter known (tritely enough) as "the Colonel," have embarked on a four-step program to close down the island's only daily newspaper, The Royal Gazette. First, government advertising was withdrawn; then civil servants were instructed not to speak to the Gazette. Foreign journalists were given notice, and finally came the loopiest action of all: the proposed introduction of an especially vicious form of censorship.
The premier introduced in May a bill to appoint a Media Council, with his stooges in the majority. The council could ban in advance the publication of any article it didn't like, and fine journalists for anything that slipped through the net.
The technique being used for the deportations is the "work permit time limit." Exemptions from the limits included actuaries, chartered accountants and others in short supply in Bermuda. Sounds reasonable enough, doesn't it?
The exemptions were couched as policy rather than law, however, to give the minister of immigration, the Colonel, supreme power to decide people's fate, case by case.
If you have insurance interests in Bermuda, there is no need to consider jurisdictional change. This nonsense has been going on for some time and a few purged journalists here or there won't make much difference. Insurance provides half of Bermuda's earnings and Premier Brown is too smart to interfere too strongly with that income stream. Plus, he has vowed to retire when his term ends in October.
The daily newspaper is locally owned and therefore subject to political whim. Many years ago, the paper represented the status quo, which was dominated by the white minority. The premier, a sort of black activist in the 1960s, has decided to use the newspaper's past as cover for stilling present voices of dissent. The irony is that many of the newspaper's employees and shareholders today are black.
On a personal note, don't worry about me (as if you would). From my perspective, it's not all bad. No career in journalism may be considered worthy unless it includes an unceremonious deportation from at least one country, solely for representing the truth. While any fool may be ejected from Burma or North Korea merely by presenting his credentials, I'm among the first wave of journalists ever to be expelled from sunny Bermuda.
To everything, there is a season. My autumn is over, and I'm off to start the winter of my life. I'll be writing for my own amusement, without rules or control. God knows what the outcome will be, and that's the point.
Editor's note: This is Roger Crombie's last column from Bermuda. Roger's new column, Roger's Soapbox, now appears in the back of the magazine.
ROGER CROMBIE is a columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
September 1, 2010
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