Monday, 12 July 2010

Are there Real Freedoms in Gibraltar?

The 2006 Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, thought, expression and freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas without interference. Until I started to write on this blog, I had little idea of how difficult the exercise of those freedoms is in practice in Gibraltar.

The extent of the subtle and not so subtle comments, threats, digs and pressures that one comes under were unexpected by me. I have to admire those who work in the press for what they do, despite my belief that they could do more. I have to admire those politicians and thinkers who swim against received and generally accepted views. Undoubtedly, I have come to learn that the establishment in Gibraltar is well entrenched and has a lot of power and influence in many areas of ones life.

I started to write this blog to get things off my chest. At the time I started, I had written several letters to the Chronic. I felt that I could not continue to abuse of their hospitality. In essence it was self-therapy. I had hopes that some people would read what I wrote. The reality is that the number is beyond my expectations. Hundreds read every piece that I write, whether they agree or not. Tens of individuals comment. I receive more comments than I can publish, because some cannot be published for legal reasons. Over 1300 persons have joined the Facebook page at There are many who stop me in the street and encourage me to carry on writing.

I am grateful for the support without which I would not continue but instead would bow down to pressures, including being dubbed a "terrorist" by some GSD supporters, a party for whom I have voted and which I have supported, without ever having joined it. Also despite some pieces written by me in praise and support of things that the GSD Government have done.

Yesterday I received a comment that I was unable to publish for legal reasons but this part I can quote:
"It is sad to see that Gibraltar has still not acquired the capability to change its governments when it is obvious that they care little for the genuine interests of the population. Is it fear of being targeted or something to do with the size of the community?"
How true and how sad, "... fear of being targeted ..."! The size of Gibraltar renders difficult even commentary that is normal in such staid publications in England as the "Times", "Daily Telegraph" and the "Financial Times" and in BBC and ITV programs, like "Today" on BBC Radio 4 or "Newsnight" on BBC2.

My apologies for being a little self-indulgent but I had a need to get these thoughts off my chest. Two final points, first there are many comments to pieces that I write that make very valid points but because of a phrase or a sentence I cannot publish them for legal reasons, please be careful and stay within the bounds of propriety. Second readers should remember that comments made by others in this blog do not necessarily reflect my own view and opinion.


  1. Sick to the Teethe12 July 2010 at 22:58

    Robert, dont worry about the threats etc.
    eventually all will come good. You will be
    offered a job in No. 6 and PC will pretend
    (or have us all believe) that the past
    never happened. Just ask the new media director. LOL

  2. Further to the posted comment on how 'Governments care little for the genuine interests of the population', I would add that not only Goverenment but those 'imported' expats who believe they own our land and think they can 'dictate' our interests and our future. I would invite our readers to check an article written by a Paul De Beresford titled 'Is a change of Government Inevitable' in the July copy of The Gibraltar Magazine. His last paragraph sums up what locals mean to this lot and how greatful Gibraltar should be for their 'help'.

    The article can be found at:

    This guy has really pissed me off. I hope I'm not the only one.


  3. You've been "dubbed a "terrorist" by some GSD supporters"? Now that's a bit much but I guess they are acutely aware that the GSD is in its last throes and its supporters are running scared, as you said in a previous blog.

  4. "Freedoms" in Gibraltar stop at the door step of the `you`re either with us or against us and if you`re against us we`ll deal with you` mentality that is ingrained in our culture.

    I have not had the oportunity of congratulating you in person,but please add my good wishes to the continuance of this blog, to what I am sure is a long list of supporters.

    Swimming against the tide is never easy !

  5. Brown Cow said…

    One cannot blame the Government alone for the fact that freedom of speech is not more readily exercised in Gibraltar.

    It is a simple matter of fact that people generally are loathe to openly criticise others in public. That is true from glowering reviews of ham fisted amateur dramatics, to GBC vox pops, to muted journalistic political commentary.

    The real enemy of freedom of speech in Gibraltar is self-interest – and successive governments have used that to their advantage.

  6. I believe that it is people generally who create this climate of fear and nothing whatsoever to do with Peter Caruana.

    He always expresses himself openly, accurately and without fear in Gibraltar and abroad - in admirable fashion - and he is the best example to follow.

  7. My Dear Robert

    The short answer is NO.

    Insight is great form time to time. It helps clear our thoughts and direction.

    However, despite the fear of being targeted, I should know, one should overcome the feeling and do or say, within the boundaries of legality, whatever one feels needs saying or doing.

    Fear is, as we all know a defensive mechanism, but when fear paralyses you, it becomes a liability.

    Ask anyone on the receiving end of the subtleties of bullying.

    Worse still is the silence by those that could make a difference and don't. Through their silence they become accomplices.


  8. Anonymous at 10:35

    Nowhere do i suggest that the climate of fear is created directly by Peter Caruana. I have saud in the past and will repeat that he has done nothing, to my knowledge, againts me. Pressures are rather more insidiously applied by those whio think that by doing so they will curry favour with him. I do not know if that school of thoufgt bears fruit or not.

    Of course Peter Caruana can say express himself openly and without fear- he holds the power!

  9. In a word NO!

    If you decide to excercise your freedom you will be bullied, restrained, kept out of the loop, ignored or worse. Unfortunately I am not able to cite examples - the reason being a direct reply to the question posed. I wish I could.

    Also, just watch GBC News for starters. Most Ministers don't really answer questions - they just ramble on without answering and GBC journalists don't badger on until they get the reply or a reply citing that they will not answer the question. There are many competent people at GBC so Im guessing that they don't push on to get answers because they too feel they would put themselves / their jobs at risk if they push to hard!

    Also especially noticeable is the CMs defensive tone when asked questions he does not wish to answer, before going off topic and not replying.

    The Gibraltar Comical - they merely reproduce Govt PRs as they receive them - sometimes with errors and all. There is no opinion. Admittedly we sometimes get Dominque and Paco providing some Opinion columns, but these are rare. I am too young to remember the Good Morning opinion column that the late Francis Cantos wrote in the Comical - was this real opinion or did it also shy away from being an opinion -without fear??

    And then, just sit at cafes, bars and terraces, you can tell when people are discussing politics/ GSD Govt performance etc - people gather closer and lower their naturally "louder than normal" llanito tone of voice to silent whispers.

    RV - think you are one of the few who discuss things openly and congregate with like minded people every evening alfresco in the centre of town lol. On many ocassions I see you and wish I could sit down to join your discussions lol.

  10. I fear that few people in Gibraltar like to be told the truth in public, particularly those in power. There is culture of fear that extends across the whole local spectrum, but not only with political issues but when complaining about medical services, the police and any other public services, I think its ingrained in some people not to complain or speak out, the old colonial mind kicks in with some who can be messed or kicked about from pillar to post,a lot of them will take it on the chin for fear of some reprisal. As far as the press and media goes,here you really have to make up your own mind up although its not that difficult, GBC will need more than a King to get its act together, probably a couple of queens and rid themselves of a few jokers on the way. Although it is refreshing at times to pick up a local daily and read some hard hitting article on something topical that pulls no punches, I'm afraid only one local newspaper has the marbles to do that.
    Your blogs Robert, have in fact ignited a lot of minds, people are not only thinking about these topics but can now let off steam and probably come to some consensus with others of like mind, using this platform as the vehicle or communication something that was badly needed. it is obvious that this blog is monitored by political parties who will use this site and others similar to gauge opinion between now and the Election, they need to!!
    Although going back to the original point in Roberts opening bit on this particular topic, why have a Constitution that gives you all these wonderful bits of freedom you mentioned when people or a good percentage of them do not know how to use them, or know they have them and are afraid to use them anyway, but a constitution we must have or we will be eaten alive in some way or form.The new constitution was a Government ruse to introduce many things that suited them in their long to short term agenda, we have already seen how the Constitution has been mucked about by some!!

  11. Being branded a "terrorist" is by no means a compliment.
    To quote Bruce Hoffman, a world renown specialist on terrorism and counter insurgency, "terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one's enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore."
    What a strong accusation to use, vaya palabrita!!
    The fact that the GSD literati, and by implication its Leader (all hail), use these type of words liberally demonstrate to all of us how little they respect and value freedom of speech, particulary when it's not in their favour.
    I salute you for having had the guts to start, and more importantly continue, this blog. I wish, like Spartacus, i could sit down and join your discussions over an alfresco drink.

  12. The one 'freedom' that exists in abundance here is to change your political 'camisa' as often as it suits YOU!! Emphasis on the YOU as 'Pansismo' is the REAL ideology followed by many here!!! Democratically exercising your right?....I think not.

    Forgetting the Politicians for a moment, it's a big chunk of our electorate that set the tone for the way in which we are 'Governed'.

    The perception of 'what's in it for me' sways far more voters than Electoral Manifestos which I am sure are rarely read by anything more than 1% of the electorate.

    Astute and intellectual political analysis usually heard around the 'Pueblo'is more often than not limited to..." A mi Johnny no lo cogieron pa la Policia y ya no voto mas pa ese hdp".. or.. " Mi hija queria un cambio de La Laguna a Los Glacis pa estar mas cerca a nosotros y el hdp del Ministro ha dicho que no puede ser"

    I mention these as typical examples of the mindset of many. 'Bossano hasta los huesos' one moment and then disciples of 'dear leader' the next!!(and then vice versa)

    These political 'Chameleons' are then faced with zealously defending their conversions on the road to Damascus! As long as they eventually get what they wanted they will then argue that black is white until the cows come home!!

    Our politicos consequently have the 'luxury' of having a few 'grateful' citizens doing their dirty work behind the scenes for them 'gratis'!! This inevitably swells their egos and makes them feel untouchable and beyond reproach. I have seen it countless times..."You are with me or you are my enemy"

    Oh why, because you got what you wanted with this guy and not the another one?? Therefore the 'unlucky' one who votes with his conscience and not his 'belly' will always be the loser!!!

    Freedom of expression will ALWAYS be shackled by this 'Pansista' mentality....Max

  13. Has it gone really quiet in here...or are comments just not loading????

  14. No, it has gone really quiet.

    Summer hours.

  15. Anon...........13th July 10.35

    Where do you live? Certainly not in the same town as I do, and certainly you are talking about another Peter Caruana not the one I listen to in parliament. Not even his Ministers have freedom of expression. Have you heard him when he insults and tries to ridicule members of the opposition? No, you certainly have not or you would not have written that post. That man does not even listen, say anything he does not agree with and the barrage of insults and derogatory statements that spew out of his mouth are an insult to parliamentary language.


  16. I wanna break free...from dis kinda political rubbish dats never recycled but keeps cuming back like de bad penny.

  17. Anon 17 July 2010 16:08

    Most of us listen occasionally to debates in the House and, whether we like it or not, Caruana is very often right.

    Remember the debate if the apes were being "exterminated" or "culled"?

    The question, its terminology and its premise were all wrong and a very cheap political is it any surprise that he reacts in the way he does?

    Caruana also puts up with a huge amount of opposition rubbish and nonsense that we hardly analise and comment upon critically.

    No wonder Caruana keeps on winning elections fair and square. The opposition is very competent at losing elections...