27 February 2002

Alert

Police urged to arrest minister who threatened newspaper


Incident details

John Lamani


(PINA/IFEX) - On 23 February 2002, Solomon Islands police were urged to arrest a government minister and "gun-toting terrorists" who forced the "Solomon Star" newspaper to pay the minister Sol$5,000 (approx. US$1,000). International award-winning Samoan newspaper publisher Savea Sano Malifa made the appeal during his keynote address to the PINA News Media, Human Rights and Democracy Conference in Nadi, Fiji Islands.


PINA Nius Online reported that Malifa told the conference "Solomon Star" publisher John Lamani was not in attendance because of threats to him and his staff from the minister and "gun-toting terrorists." The reported threats followed the "Solomon Star"'s publication of a report, an editorial and a letter to the editor about the minister assaulting a taxi driver in Honiara, the capital.


Malifa told the conference, "It seems clear that there are those in the government who are aiming to effectively silence the free press in that country. And since that government seems to be sanctioning threats of violence made by public officials against the free press, democracy in the Solomon Islands is unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future. It has indeed been kidnapped by terrorism instead, and when the rule of law does not intervene, peace and freedom shall continue to be denied the people of that country.


"What's particularly disheartening is that we learned that it was a minister of state who had sent armed men to Lamani's office to demand Sol$5,000 in compensation. And as if that was not appalling enough, the minister and his armed men issued an ultimatum not to publish similar articles in the future. In any country, an attempt to silence the free press is an attempt to break apart the cornerstone of democracy."

Background Information


PINA President Johnson Honimae, also a Solomon Islander, has met with Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza over the threats to the "Solomon Star". PINA has also made written representations to Sir Kemakeza. However, no action appears to have been taken against the minister or the gunmen to date.


The threats to the newspaper come amidst continuing law-and-order problems and killings, despite the signing of a a peace agreement that ended two years of ethnic conflict in Solomon Islands. Hundreds of high-powered weapons are still unaccounted for. They are believed to still be in the hands of former militia members and rebel paramilitary police officers involved in a coup in Honiara in June 2000.




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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