British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Oct 31, 2020

BVI News claims that VINO site's 'distasteful' cartoon of Governor sparks public outrage.

BVI News claims that VINO site's 'distasteful' cartoon of Governor sparks public outrage.

BVI News claims that a Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) cartoon of Governor Augustus Jaspert kneeling on the neck of talk-show host Claude Skelton Cline has been met with public outrage and calls for the website to remove the cartoon, and calls advertisers to boycott the website. We join the call to remove it too, but not to boycott VINO. Our standpoint is at the end of this article.

BVI News wrote:

Several residents and public figures have described the cartoon as insensitive and some have demanded a public apology from the management of the media company.

“For this news site to publish the Governor on the neck of a Mr Cline is inflammatory, insensitive and irresponsible. We don’t need to fuel race tensions here in our BVI, in such a callous and blatant manner,” local businessman Dr Michael Turnbull said in a Facebook post.

He continued: “If you’re a business that advertises with Virgin Islands News Online, a call needs to be made to have them remove this image or you remove your ads. Silence is stating you support. You have a corporate responsibility. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that we have to fund this new site.”

Turnbull’s statement, which was posted around 11:30 am on Monday, June 15, has received more than 40 reactions, as well as multiple shares and comments expressing similar sentiments.


Advertisers told to boycott

Meanwhile, former NDP candidate in the 2019 General Elections, Aaron Parillon has also expressed his disgust on social media.

“Representatives of VINO, you and I have no sort of relations whatsoever but do right by your people and get your media house in order before we black Virgin Islanders have to. When I see people, I see people. I don’t care what party, race or colour you rock. It is disturbing to use George Floyd’s situation as a reference to prove a political point.”

“I would be ashamed to have my face or family’s face featured on this site as any young professional,” he added.

Up to publication time, his post generated 60 reactions, more than 50 comments and at least seven shares. Parillon and some social media users who commented his post have even called for advertisers to boycott the Julian Willock-owned website.

“People need to stop advertising their businesses as well,” former Miss BVI, Kadia Turnbull wrote.

Adding his voice to the conversation, local recording artiste McKenzie ‘B’More’ Baltimore, Jr wrote: “I am so disgusted right now! Pull the ads. Don’t comment the pics either on the site. I am sick to my stomach.”

“Very insensitive! This must be taken down immediately and apology given,” are other examples of comments that continue to pour in from social media users.


The cartoon and George Floyd’s killing

VINO’s cartoon was inspired by the controversial circumstances surrounding the May 25 death of 46-year-old African-American, George Floyd, who was killed on the streets of Minneapolis, USA when a caucasian police officer kneeled on his neck for just under 9 minutes.

The incident, which which was recorded on video, sparked worldwide protests and violence, calling for an end to racism against the black community.


Premier denounces racism

Even locally, Premier Andrew Fahie has publicly commented on the Floyd killing and denounced all acts of racism.

VINO’s cartoon, in the meantime, follows June 9 statements from Skelton Cline reportedly that the United Kingdom and Governor Jaspert have their figurative knees on the necks of Virgin Islanders.

Skelton Cline further called for residents to join in the fight against the injustices being faced by people of colour.


Our opinion and standpoint:

This cartoon is disturbing indeed, especially at such a sensitive time.

We are great advocates of the maximum protection of free speech. 

The value of freedom of expression is not examined in the expression of pleasant and comfortable views. The value of freedom of speech is measured precisely in relation particularly to the expression of offensive and disturbing views.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell).

However, freedom of expression does not abrogate the responsibility that verbal or visual humour can be translated by some extremist into dangerous action.

It is both very fine and very relevant to oppose the colonialism that the Governor Augustus Jaspert is part of, and represents. And it is also very relevant and definitely appropriate to link the anti-colonialism voices in (B?)VI with the George Floyd protests, the same as it must be okay and very welcome to express the opposite voices, that appreciate Governor Augustus Jaspert service and contribution to BVI people and territory. Both opposite opinions are legitimate and must enjoy the same freedom of expression.  

It is also very relevant and definitely appropriate to link the anti-colonialism voices in BVI with the George Floyd protests even if obviously we all know that there is not much to compare between the built-in racism in major U.S. institutes and society, that almost do not exist in BVI, despite of what is left from the British colonialism. While UK is fighting constantly and effectively against it's traditional racism (it's just a question of time before we will see that the "second class citizens" in UK will control the whole political system) - U.S. is still 150 years behind.

So leveraging the George Floyd momentum to amplify the anti-colonialism movement in BVI is justified. However, this must be done in a way that does not risk anyone's personal safety.

And such a cartoon is, in my personal opinion, a strong and powerful way to deliver the message, but also creates a risk that this will lead to unwanted and dangerous action against the Governor (or VINO). So we join the call for removing it at this sensitive time, but we are absolutely against boycotting VINO just because they think or say something that we believe its wrong. 

We suggest to remove this cartoon not as a must and not by the law, but as an act of responsible journalism.

Mature society do not need a law to guide them how to act properly. Anyway as we all know, not all what is legal is moral, and not all what is moral is legal (for example: Slavery was legal but not moral, and Nelson Mandela acts against his apartheid government wasn't legal but absolutely moral...).

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