Minister Fahy gave the following explanation for his decision:
“Regarding the film crew’s request to visit, after carefully and extensively assessing the matter, we recognised there could be some potential reputational risks to Bermuda associated with the ultimate airing of this documentary.”
“Based on the provisions under the law and at my discretion, a decision was made to decline their application for temporary work permits.”
I’m afraid I fail to follow the logic here.
Yes, the documentary makes us look bad, because, quite frankly, we (our police and judicial system) did indeed screw up.
We look bad because we did handle it badly.
Add to that, whether we allow the film crew permits here or not, the documentary is going to be made, and so declining the film crew work permits does absolutely nothing to prevent ‘reputational risks to Bermuda associated with the ultimate airing of this documentary’.
In fact, this move has completely the opposite effect.
Rather than helping protect Bermuda’s image, we’ve further tarnished it with this decision. We’ve compounded the situation, and made ourselves look worse.
This decision alone has negatively affected our reputation, even before the airing of the documentary – even before it has really begun!
Had we allowed the film-crew to come, we could have ensured that Government could acknowledge the errors that were made in the original case and highlight the reforms they led to, and project a good image of Bermuda as safe for tourists.
Instead we’ve invited criticism of censorship and comparisons to totalitarian regimes which crush negative reporting through the power of the State – and largely excuse their actions along similar Orwellian language as Minister Fahy has used here.
Point blank, this was the completely the wrong decision.
In one of the original stories regarding this the Minister noted that the Bermuda Tourism Authority would be ‘consulted’ about whether or not to allow the film crew permission to film here.
I criticised this at the time as giving a private/quango entity power over the decision, enhancing the democratic deficit, as the BTA is not accountable to the people.
The Minister later released a statement saying that neither the BTA or the DoTourism have the power to vet work permits, but are simply consulted.
It seems to me that while the final decision, the actual ‘vetting’ is, indeed, done by the DoImmigration, it is clear that the consultation carries significant weight, and the BTA, at least, does appear to have had de facto vetting power in this instance.
Unfortunately, we don’t have PATI (Public Access To Information) in place yet, so we’ll likely be unable to get a proper account of what this ‘consultation’ constituted…
I doubt it will be lost on the film crew that our current OBA Attorney-General, Mark Pettingill, was central to the Rebecca Middleton tragedy.
I doubt that they will not seek to investigate, or frame, whether the decision to prevent them from filming in Bermuda, was due to the embarrassment that this might cause to the current Government, as the current AG’s role would no doubt have featured prominently.
Whether or not the AG did apply behind-the-scenes pressure on Minister Fahy (and it should be noted that both are from the BDA faction of the OBA) I cannot say.
Nonetheless, the connection is there and will no doubt be seen by some as a very real possibility.
NB – Mark Pettingill was the attorney for Kirk Mundy, one of the two accused in the Rebecca Middleton case. In some versions of the story (it’s not as clear as one would imagine, very much a ‘he said, she said’ mess) he was central to obtaining the plea bargain for Kirk Mundy, which ultimately led to the collapse of the case. Alternatively, there’s questions about how the police handled it, mistakes with forensic evidence, etc. As such, it’s not clear to what degree Mr Pettingill should shoulder for the tragic mishandling of the case, but he would be a central figure nonetheless.