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Deputies must not feel under threat

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

THE line between fair comment and abuse has been trampled so badly in recent years that it is becoming faded to the point of invisibility.

Right-wing protesters shouting Nazi at an MP and blocking her path will claim they are only exercising their democratic rights.

Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook have become a cesspool of partisan hatred as often anonymous writers lash out with seeming impunity at anyone with a public profile.

To his credit, Matt Waterman refuses to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. He writes regularly to this newspaper under his own name and emails his Intermattent newsletter to a long list of people with no attempt at subterfuge.

The topics are varied: the dangers of 5G technology, jet contrails, GcMaf, Guernsey FC, the Providence fraud, island-wide voting...

His newsletters are often well-researched and thought-provoking. They can also be witty and insightful. Sometimes they are belligerent, mean-spirited and intolerant.

Over the years, he has published tens of thousands of words, often adding depth to the island debate.

However, on New Year’s Eve, Mr Waterman did not just tiptoe over the line but recklessly launched himself into a tirade of malicious abuse over the topic of organ donation.

To have aimed those comments at named deputies was bad enough. To have wished them the ‘worst and unhappiest year’ they have ever had was unpleasant.

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To have then gone further and hoped their subsequent years got progressively worse and were ‘not very numerous’ was nasty and vindictive.

Not content with such personal attacks, however, he went further and threatened to have the deputies and their families put under surveillance.

It was a step too far for the president of Policy & Resources, Gavin St Pier, who re-published the newsletter on his Twitter and Facebook feed.

The support was strong and instantaneous. Many were surprised that deputies had to suffer such abuse. Only a handful sought to offer up excuses.

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If Mr Waterman can step away and consider his actions, he will realise his words were wholly unacceptable and apologise.

In a democracy, deputies should expect to be criticised, lambasted even, for their politics.

They should never feel threatened.

Shaun Green

By Shaun Green
author

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