Yesterday, the Bermuda Gazette reported on the sentencing of an American tourist who was arrested for possessing pot on a cruise ship which ported in Bermuda.
The Gazette identified the passenger as 43-year-old Edward John Molinari, from New York. The newspaper reported that after the cruise ship arrived in Bermuda, customs officers and police searched Molinari’s cabin with a drug sniffing dog and "found seven homemade cigarettes in the room’s safe, plus a partially-smoked eighth, containing cannabis of an estimated street value of $178."
The other major newspaper in Bermuda, the Bermuda Sun, also reported on the petty drug offense and mentioned that Mr. Molinari was married with three children. The Sun included a photograph of Mr. Molinari taken by a photographer camped outside of the courthouse.
Neither the Gazette nor the Sun mentioned the name of the cruise line, and the Gazette did not mention the name of the cruise ship either. Why not? Was it because Mr. Molinari informed the Bermuda judge that that cannabis had been in use “all over the boat?”
I have been critical of the press in Bermuda in general, and the Royal Gazette in particular, for not mentioning the names of cruise lines when the stories include embarrassing facts like drugs and crimes on the cruise ships.
For example, the Bermuda Gazette recently covered a trial in Bermuda involving allegations that a crew member raped another cruise line employee. We covered the incident and of course mentioned the names of the cruise line and cruise ship. We tried to place the incident into context by mentioning this cruise line's history of similar alleged crimes on its fleet of cruise ships.
The Gazette, however, choose not to mention the name of the cruise line (Princess Cruises) or the name of the cruise ship (Caribbean Princess). Was this because Princess Cruises incorporated itself in Bermuda and registered its cruise ship there in order to enjoy that country's lax safety regulations and minimal taxes? Is the Bermuda press extending the same courtesy of "looking the other way" routinely extended by the Bermuda vessel registry and incorporation officials? The Gazette claims that it decided not to mention the cruise line or cruise ship in order to protect the identity of the alleged rape victim and defendant. That seems like quite a stretch. But assuming that to be true, why did the Gazette decide not to mention the name of the cruise line or cruise ship which allegedly had drug use "all over the boat?"
When you search the Bermuda Gazette's archives, you will find that while it is quick to identify U.S. passengers caught with small amounts of pot on cruise ships, it will not publish anything potentially embarrassing about the cruise lines.
The island is very strict when it comes to prosecuting U.S. passengers. Bermuda will bust U.S. passengers for minor drug possession on cruise ships porting in Bermuda even if its clear that the pot is for the passenger's personal use and the pot never leaves the cruise ship. And the newspapers in Bermuda love reporting about such minor offenses.
But Bermuda does a deplorable job investigating violent crimes or mysterious disappearances which may implicate cruise ships which fly the flag of Bermuda. You will see no real journalism by the Bermuda newspapers into the issues of cruise ship crime, pollution, exploitation of crew members and tax avoidance. Take a moment and read about Bermuda's indifference to crimes on Bermuda flagged cruise ships.
For example when Italian crew member Angelo Faliva disappeared from the Bermuda flagged Princess cruise ship the Coral Princess, Bermuda eventually conducted a dilatory and unmotivated "investigation" which quickly ended without any answers and no criticism of the cruise line. The Royal Gazette and other newspapers in Bermuda completely ignored the Faliva family's plight.
The Angelo Faliva disappearance demonstrates the fundamental corruptness of incorporating cruise lines in remote islands and flying flags of convenience of countries with a non-existent regulatory scheme and a press which acts like a cruise line PR department. Disappearances often go un-reported, un-investigated, and un-prosecuted because of the indifference of the flag countries and the desire of the image-obsessed cruise lines to sweep the problem under the rug.
Independent newspapers with integrity keep large corporations like the cruise lines honest.
But newspapers like the Bermuda Gazette are a different story. If you are a passenger caught with some reefer in a safe in your cabin on a cruise ship docked in Bermuda, be prepared to have your name and photograph appear on the front page of the Bermuda newspapers. But if you are a cruise line with a history of pollution and shipboard crimes, don't worry - the newspapers in Bermuda will be certain never to mention you.
Top: Edward Molinari leaving courthouse, photo by Kageaki Smith via Bermuda Sun
Bottom: Angelo Faliva, courtesy of the Faliva family