The Cayman Islands Cabinet has been accused of attempting to censor the press by banning Government departments from advertising with a local daily newspaper.
The Cayman Net News claims it could lose £100,000 a year in revenue from a ban and would be forced to lay off journalists, many of whom are British.
The Cayman Islands is a British crown colony and the newspaper could challenge a ban by seeking judicial review with the Privy Council in London.
The Net News reported that the leader of government business, McKeeva Bush, had passed a Cabinet directive banning the Government from advertising with it.
The Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways and the Port Authority have already stopped advertising with the newspaper.
Bush was reportedly unhappy about the Net News’s reporting of the cancellation of constitutional talks due to take place in London. The newspaper also said Bush was concerned about its critical coverage of government tourism policy.
According to editor-in-chief and owner Desmond Seales, government adverts are now being placed in rival daily, the Caymanian Compass.
He said: “We will continue to publish the news as it happens without fear or favour.
“There’s an election in November and a considerable amount of advertising to be done by the Government and the election supervisor.
“To deny that advertising to our newspaper is to deny voters their rights, who says they are going to buy both newspapers?” In an editorial Seales said: “Should the current repressive winds continue to be allowed to blow in this country, and our Government become emboldened by further authoritarian successes, there is no guarantee what our future will look like.
“Democracy is not free. If the people of the Cayman Islands want to keep one of the cornerstones of a democratic society – a vibrant, independent press – healthy, they must now act in supporting Cayman Net News through this economic siege, or face the possibility of a sterilised and impotent media.”
A spokesman for the Cayman Islands Government said: “The Cabinet will not be issuing any statements on this matter.”
By Dominic Ponsford