29 April 1999


Vanuatu publisher attacked, paper threatened

Incident details

Marc Neil-Jones



PINA/IFEX - News organisations in Vanuatu have faced intimidation and
threats from Deputy Prime Minister Willy Jimmy and his supporters, the
country's main independent newspaper, the "Vanuatu Trading Post", reported
on 29 April 1999. It stated that, on 25 April, a former business associate
of Jimmy assaulted "Trading Post" publisher, Marc Neil-Jones. Punches were
thrown at Neil-Jones and he was attacked with a chair before security guards
in a nightspot restrained his assailant. Neil-Jones was talking to Jimmy at
the time but Jimmy was not involved in the incident, the newspaper said.
Neil-Jones filed an assault charge and alerted the country's independent
Ombudswoman, the report stated.

The twice-weekly "Trading Post" alleged that the person who attacked
Neil-Jones has a reputation as a well known violent, standover man and had
been involved in numerous fights over political differences. It alleged that
the man was angry over the newspaper's coverage of a court case about an
election dispute.

The "Trading Post" said that it subsequently received a telephone call with
a blunt message from Jimmy, through an associate, stating that his name was
not to be mentioned with the news of the assault, otherwise the place would
be smashed up and there would be problems. Peter Sali, a political advisor
to Jimmy, also visited the "Trading Post" office, accompanied by the police,
to deliver a message from Jimmy stating that his name was not to be
mentioned. The "Trading Post" said that the Ombudswoman is looking at the
allegations of threats to the newspaper. The Ombudswoman had advised that,
unless the police were laying formal charges, they should not be issuing
warnings to anyone on behalf of politicians.

Staff from the government's Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation
have also reportedly been intimidated by people associated with Jimmy, the
"Trading Post" said (see IFEX alerts of 16 March, 13 February and 13 January
1998). It also said that a non-governmental weekly newspaper, "Nasara",
which it described as being owned by the "opposition", had reported threats
and intimidation.

Background Information

Vanuatu is the former joint British and French-ruled condominium of the New
Hebrides. Following independence in 1980, its news media were largely
government controlled. But in recent years a growing independent news media
has emerged, led by the "Trading Post". The newspaper has reported a number
of political scandals involving Jimmy.


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