18 June 2008


Government's retaliatory withdrawal of advertising contracts, abrupt cancellation of subsidy, costs "Royal Gazette" $825,000

Incident details


(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 16 June 2008 WAN letter to Bermudan Premier Ewart Brown:

Premier of Bermuda, Dr. Ewart Brown
Office of the Premier
The Cabinet Building
105 Front Street, Hamilton
HM12 Bermuda

16 June 2008

Dear Premier,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at the government's decision to withdraw advertising from The Royal Gazette.

In March, Minister of Home Affairs David Burch put a ban on his ministry's advertising in, and subscriptions to, the independent daily The Royal Gazette. While claiming this was a cost-cutting measure, Mr. Burch also criticised the newspaper on national TV for printing "fiction". The Cabinet Office soon followed Mr Burch's lead and introduced a government-wide ban on advertising in the newspaper, worth about $800,000 a year, and announced that in future electronic media would be the preferred means of communication.

The Government has not explained how it arrived at its decision that electronic media are a more effective means of reaching the public.

Furthermore, government advertising continues in the island's other privately owned newspaper, the bi-weekly Bermuda Sun, which has significantly lower readership than The Royal Gazette.

At around the same time, the Cultural Affairs Ministry cancelled a contract, just a week after signing it, to provide The Royal Gazette's magazine with a $25,000 subsidy for its annual heritage edition, ending what had been an eight-year partnership.

We are seriously concerned that the advertising ban, cancellation of subscriptions and removal of sponsorship from The Royal Gazette may have been politically motivated. The advertising ban was announced the week after The Royal Gazette had celebrated Sunshine Week, an initiative to highlight the need for freedom of information laws and the culmination of its Right to Know campaign, aimed at introducing freedom of information legislation.

While accepting that no government is obliged to advertise in a particular publication, we believe that the government has a responsibility to make sure that its advertisements reach the widest possible audience and provide value for money for the taxpayer. The Royal Gazette has by far the greatest reach of any news outlet in Bermuda and as such is a natural choice for advertising.

We respectfully call on you to reconsider the advertising ban on The Royal Gazette and to ensure that advertising is not used as a weapon to pressure independent media with whom the authorities do not agree.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Gavin O'Reilly
World Association of Newspapers

George Brock
World Editors Forum


World Association of Newspapers
7 Rue Geoffroy St. Hilaire
75005 Paris
contact_us (@) wan.asso.fr
Fax:+33 14 742 4948