28 October 1999

Alert

Government confirms lifting of media restrictions


Incident details

ban lifted


(PINA/IFEX) - State-of-emergency media restrictions in the Solomon Islands
have ended, a government minister confirmed on 27 October 1999. The minister
of state assisting the prime minister, Alfred Sasako, said in a letter to
the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation: "I can confirm that
restrictions, which applied in the four months to 15 October 1999, are no
longer applicable since the state of emergency has lapsed." He was replying
to a letter from Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation general manager
and PINA executive Johnson Honimae. This questioned a statement by a senior
officer in the prime minister's office that although the state of emergency
had ended the media restrictions still applied to coverage of ethnic
tension.





**Updates IFEX alerts of 15 July, 7 July, 5 July, 2 July, 30 June and 3
February 1999**


Solomon Islands delegates attending the 1999 PINA convention in Suva, Fiji
Islands, on 11 October had briefed fellow delegates the media restrictions
were about to end. PINA had protested against the introduction of the
restrictions. PINA's president, William Parkinson, personally met with
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bartholomew
Ulufa'alu, and raised PINA's concerns. He got assurances from the prime
minister that media freedom would be respected. According to PINA members in
the Solomon Islands it was.


Background Information


On 28 June, the Solomon Islands' government introduced emergency powers
restricting media reporting. This followed the declaration of a state of
emergency following ethnic tension on the main island, Guadalcanal. Those
convicted of breaching the emergency restrictions could be jailed for up to
two years and fined up to $Solomons 5,000 (approx. US$1,035). The
restrictions forbid printing, broadcasting or communicating information
which incites violence or is likely to cause racial or communal disharmony.
They also forbid printing, broadcasting or communicating information
"prejudicial" to the safety or interests of the state, or likely to cause
"disaffection" with the government, or "hatred of contempt" for the
administration of justice or national security. The powers also restricted
the printing, broadcasting or communicating of information from official
documents.


PINA urged the Solomon Islands' government to lift the restrictions. PINA
said these restrictions date from colonial times and are not appropriate for
a modern democracy. PINA said it was sad to see media restrictions like this
imposed in a country which has one of the best records of media freedom in
the region.


Open debate and clear credible communication are essential in times of
national disaster or civil unrest, it said. Remove it and the media are
replaced by rumour and speculation which can only make matters worse, PINA
said.


Guadalcanal is where Honiara, the Solomons Islands capital, is located. A
Guadalcanal militant movement has been trying to drive out people who come
from another major island, Malaita. The movement claimed that Malaitans
dominated government and business and were increasingly occupying the lands
of the Guadalcanal people. Thousands of Malaitans fled back to Malaita
following a series of attacks by the militants. Honiara became the capital
of the then British Solomon Islands after Word War II. It grew from a base
and port built by United States forces during the battle to retake the
Solomon Islands from the Japanese.









Source

Pacific Islands News Association
Level 2, 46 Gordon Street, Damodar Centre
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Fiji Islands
pina (@) connect.com.fj
Fax:+679 3317055
Solomon Islands
 
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