The International Press Institute (IPI) offers its congratulations to the media in Bermuda on the announcement of the members of the self-regulatory, independent media council.

In October this year, the media community in Bermuda announced that lawyer Christian Luthi would head the eight-member council, which was selected by a three-person committee. The council is expected to take effect very shortly.

The council, which is independent and voluntary, will not address retroactive cases, and will only address stories dated after the council comes into effect.

The media in Bermuda began the process of establishing an independent media council after a bill proposing statutory regulation was withdrawn from parliament earlier this year.

The bill, tabled by former premier Ewart Brown, was met with an outcry both from the local media community and international press freedom organizations, including IPI. After an intense campaign in favour of journalistic self regulation and against statutory regulation of media content, the bill was withdrawn before it could be voted on by parliament on condition that the media form a media council by mid-September.

In a press release announcing the launch, Tony McWilliam of the Bermuda Sun said, “We had planned a mid-September launch but the extensive preparatory work has required an extraordinary level of commitment and collaboration from all of those involved and despite some delays, we’re enthused about progress.”

At the time of the tabling of this bill, IPI pointed out that voluntary, independent and self-regulatory media councils were vastly preferable to regulation “enacted by law and contain(ing) an in-built bias to the state (which) creates powers that, if applied, would deeply inhibit the media’s ability to act in the public interest.”

“We applaud the establishment of the Bermuda Media Council, and are certain that it will be successful and effective. IPI strongly believes that voluntary self-regulation of the media is a key component of the media’s ability to inform the public without bias,” said IPI Acting Director Alison Bethel McKenzie.