Press Release by Johan P. Sjiem Fat Speed vs. Ady Thijssen
With the conflict between journalist Speed Andrade and the Chairman of the Aruban Parliament Ady Thijssen, history repeats itself. It is not the first time that a conflict between a journalist and a political authority on our islands leads to a ban on access to the parliament, as a result of which the journalist is limited in his duties. It is also not the first time that the journalist is taking the government to court as a result of this denied access to parliament. I predict that it also will not be the first time that the court is likely to sanction the government’s action.
In 2004, Amigoe journalist Marjo Nederlof got involved in a quarrel with the Dutch Antillean Minister-President Mirna Godett during a press conference. As a result of the quarrel between these two ladies, Nederlof was denied access to press conferences of the Prime Minister. The Amigoe and Nederlof dragged the government to court and argued that the denial of access constituted an unacceptable interference of the public authorities into the free and independent news gathering, which forms a fundamental part of the provisions of, among others, article 10 of the European Convention for the Human rights (ECHR) protected freedom of speech. In addition, the measure was discriminatory with respect to the Amigoe and Nederlof and therefore in violation of article 14 ECHR which prohibits any form of discrimination.
The Court of First Instance ruled in favor of the Amigoe and Nederlof by judgment of the 24th of January 2004 (vonnis Amigoe-Land-Nederlof-Godett-260104 copy). The government was ordered to admit the Amigoe and Nederlof to the press conferences of the Prime Minister just like the other news media and journalists on the island.
It is worthwhile to read the verdict that can be found online once more. Not only because of the relevance of the verdict as a precedent for the case of Speed Andrade vs the Chairman of the Aruban Parliament, but also because Judge Bob Wit has included a number of worthwhile and amusing considerations in his verdict, which hits the nail on the head.
He jokingly mentions a remark from Groucho Marx: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”. About the conflict between Nederlof and the Prime Minister, who obviously do not like each other, he remarks: “in Papiamentu we say: ‘nan sanger no ta sali ku otro'”. Another quote is: “We are not a banana republic and we should stay that way”. And finally: “Politicians in power must always keep in mind that they can return to an opposition role or status at any time and that they will then need to be able to exercise the rights, which they are now trying to restrict for opportunistic reasons”. Whoever fits the shoe, wear it! I would say.