21 September 1999


Bid to start non-government radio in Kiribati leads to charges

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - Efforts to set up the first non-government radio station on
the main atoll in the central Pacific nation of Kiribati led to the
station's directors being charged in court on 17 September 1999. Ieremia
Tabai and his partner in Newair FM, Atiera Tetoa, were jointly charged in
the Magistrates' Court at Bairiki, the administrative centre on Tarawa, the
capital atoll and population centre. They were alleged to have imported
radio communication equipment without a licence and established, maintained
or worked a radio communication station without a licence. Prosecuting and
defence counsel then agreed with the case being adjourned until 3 November,
according to information obtained by PINA.

At present the Kiribati government-owned Broadcasting and Publications
Authority operates Radio Kiribati and publishes the country's only
newspaper, the weekly "Te Uekera". Tabai says that the government does not
want him to start an independent FM radio station and newspaper. He is a
former president of Kiribati (population 84,000) and former
secretary-general of the South Pacific Forum, an inter-governmental
organisation of independent and self-governing Pacific Islands nations plus
Australia and New Zealand. When Tabai returned to Kiribati and began trying
to set up the station the government alleged he was breaching the
Telecommunications Act.

Tabai told the regional news magazine "Islands Business" that he has been
lobbying the government since last year to give him a licence for Newair FM.
He said that if he could not start the radio station he would start a
newspaper. He added that with the existing radio station and newspaper being
government-owned "it's always good for the interest of the community, the
interests of democracy, to have another voice in the community." Tabai
further stated that the plan was for Newair FM to at first cover South
Tarawa, where he said a third of the country's population lives, including
most civil servants. "What we need is a lot of competition in the market
place," he told "Islands Business".


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Fiji Islands
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