The landscape of the media and journalism has shifted drastically in the last 10 years or so. Nowadays, if you're under 45, you probably get a fair amount of your news from Facebook and internet messaging apps, and you may get it mere minutes after a breaking story emerges.
But, these new breaking news outfits are learning fast that the rules of accurate and responsible news reporting also apply to them, and breaking these rules has consequences.
Tonight, Breaking Belize News is currently facing the possibility of being found in contempt of the Court of Appeal - which is not a minor matter. A person cited for contempt risks being sent to jail, if a judge so chooses.
It's a very serious matter, and so, Hugh O'Brien, who sources tell 7News is BBN's news editor, and Tanya Silva, another principal in BBN, had to appear at the Appeal Court this afternoon. They're facing an application to be cited for contempt. We can't tell you for certain what exact role these 2 play in Breaking Belize News. That's because that organization's structure and staff are somewhat of a mystery. As far as we know, they don't have an office headquarters or an office telephone number to call.
But, the court found them and summoned them to court today. It's a matter that goes back to the big ICJ referendum fight between the Barrow Administration and the PUP earlier this year. Belize was to hold its ICJ referendum on April 10th, but the PUP successfully managed to get the referendum completely shut down, when the Chief Justice ordered an injunction against it. But, in the end, the referendum was held a month later on May 8th.
Now, on the way to that new referendum date, the Opposition and the Government engaged a series of court battles in April; the case even landed in front of the Court of Appeal. That's where Breaking Belize News contempt problems originated. In one such court hearing, the judges of the Court of Appeal held a case management conference with the PUP and Government litigants. Now, case management conferences are like housekeeping, to put all litigants on the same page, and make the best use of the court's time.
These conferences are usually private, which is the accepted practice, and not a reason to quarrel with the court. But, Breaking Belize News published a story on their Facebook and website alleging that the Court was intentionally barring the press from observing this part of the litigation. They even alleged that the court was operating in secrecy in a matter of urgent national interest.
That baseless allegation did not sit well with the President of the Court, Justice Manuel Sosa. During the court's April session, the President addressed the court and expressed outrage that this article was published by BBN. He ended his comments by noting that the court would pursue this matter.
We fast forward to this afternoon, several months later, when BBN's Hugh O'Brien and Tanya Silva showed up for the contempt proceedings. As we've already mentioned, case management conferences are private, and so, we could not sit in today's hearing.
About an hour or so later, they exited the court, and when we pressed him for comment, O'Brien told us that he could not make any for fear that he may be breaking the rules. We understand that today's appearance before the court is not the end of the matter, and we'll keep following it.Channel 7