18 September 2000


Government plans restrictions on media coverage of ethnic conflict

(PINA/IFEX) - On 18 September 2000, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) said that the Solomon Islands government plans to restrict local news media coverage of the country's ethnic conflict. SIBC News stated that a letter addressed to all media organisations by Director of the Government Communication Division Alfred Maesulia said all media releases on the crisis which do not come from the department must be referred to him for screening with the prime
minister's office before release.

Maesulia said that while the public must be informed of all the events related to the crisis, some information may be untimely at a certain point and should be withheld for public safety and national security reasons. He said that what he called untimely news in the media has already cost the government millions of dollars and put the lives of certain citizens in the country at risk. However, he did not specify what particular news items had cost the government millions of dollars and endangered lives, SIBC News said.

SIBC News said the statement did not specify whether the restriction also includes news items about the crisis coming from outside the government. Local news media are urgently seeking more information.

Background Information

A ceasefire in the Solomon Islands follows ethnic conflict which engulfed Guadalcanal, the island on which the capital, Honiara, is located. Peace talks started aboard a New Zealand navy ship off Honiara this month, and are due to continue in Cairns, Australia, next month. The ethnic conflict began when Guadalcanal militants tried to drive out settlers from another island, Malaita, claiming the Malaitans dominated government and business and were taking over Guadalcanal land.

Honiara has been under the control of a joint operation of the Malaita Eagle Force militia and elements of the paramilitary police field force. The Guadalcanal countryside is largely under the control of Guadalcanal's Isatabu Freedom Movement militia.

A previous Solomon Islands government used state of emergency legislation to limit media coverage of the conflict (see IFEX alerts of 28 October, 7, 5 and 2 July and 30 June 1999). But this was later lifted after intensive lobbying by PINA and its Solomon Islands members.


Pacific Islands News Association
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Solomon Islands
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