Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why has 'VOX" been padlocked?

In a press statement today following the recent padlocking of VOX newspaper’s premises, Equality Rights Group GGR has asked whether, as Gibraltarians, we do not care to hear the alarm bells that are ringing in our society.

“As we stand together in our fight against external threats to our way of life – whether the UK in the case of an unacceptable MOD decision, or Spain and the UK with respect to Sovereignty – let us not lose sight of what we ourselves are doing from within!”

Referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent speech on assuming the leadership of the European Union, the group stated that “Mrs Merkel has rightly identified that the core of European identity and tradition rests on tolerance and freedom. She also made clear that freedom is something which needs to be fought for day by day. VOX newspaper, in its forthright independence ‘without fear or favour’ has aimed to do just that. It is an astounding measure of our society that the sirens that should have sounded upon the closure of a newspaper’s premises in Gibraltar have, instead, been largely met by a resounding silence in Gibraltar. Where are the political parties on this important issue? And what is causing civic society to stand mute before the implications of what has happened?”

“The closure of a newspaper’s premises by the authorities is a serious threat to the freedom of all citizens in our democracy. Whilst the basis for closure of premises has been a contested question of arrears, it is in the Courts that such disputes must be settled. And it is in the Courts that the kind of drastic action which closure of a newspaper’s offices implies must be reasonably and justly weighed within the counterbalance of democratic values such as freedom of speech and the importance of open and objective criticism by any of our media. Instead, the manner and speed with which VOX’s premises were shut down give rise, in our view, to reasonable democratic doubt as to not only the standing of a free press in Gibraltar but to its independence, highlighting and underscoring the importance of the need for measures to create an independent framework guaranteeing the freedom of the press free of political interference which this organization has openly called for.”

“Politicians, civic society representatives and individual citizens who have a serious and conscientious commitment to the fundamental value of freedom of speech and democracy do themselves and Gibraltar a gross disfavour by remaining mute on a matter which, we are certain, all of us recognize as a dangerous path for Gibraltar to tread. If VOX owes money, that is a matter for the Courts. If VOX publishes untruthful or libelous material, it is again for the Courts. It is only in the most extreme of situations and only as a final recourse, where due process has not only been applied but also been seen to be applied by impartial judges, that drastic measures of the sort we have witnessed in VOX’s case should be undertaken. The question is clear: is it VOX or Gibraltarian democracy that has been padlocked?”