24 September 1999


Editors suspended, government interference alleged

Incident details

Moses Stevens and Hilaire Bule



(PINA/IFEX) - On 23 September 1999, PINA appealed for the fundamental human
rights to freedom of expression and information to be respected in a
political power struggle now taking place in Vanuatu. PINA said that it was
deeply disturbed to hear of the suspension of the editor and desk editor of
the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC). It appealed for
the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of editor Moses Stevens and
his desk editor for radio and television, Hilaire Bule.

PINA said that it had received a series of complaints from Vanuatu
journalists alleging growing government interference in the daily running of
VBTC and the news its radio and TV stations carry. PINA said that it was
informed that Stevens and Bule received suspension letters dated 18
September, after telling a Pres Klab blong Vanuatu meeting that they had
been directed not to broadcast news that a government backbencher had
defected to the opposition.

PINA said that VBTC is largely a publicly funded national broadcaster and
the duty of the organisation and its staff is to fully and impartially
inform all the people of Vanuatu. PINA added that VBTC is not there to serve
the personal interests of whichever politicians happen to be in power. PINA
further stated that media freedom in Vanuatu had until recently advanced a
long way from the times when there was outrageous political interference in
the running of VBTC. All those responsible for this improvement deserve
congratulations, it said. PINA appealed to everyone in Vanuatu to "ensure
that there was now no return to the bad days of old."

PINA congratulated the members of Pres Klab blong Vanuatu and others in the
Vanuatu news media for uniting in defending media freedom and the right of
the Vanuatu people to freedom of information and expression. PINA said that
anyone tempted to interfere with media freedom should remember that Article
19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: "Everyone has the
right to freedom of information and expression; this right includes freedom
to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart and
ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) operates Vanuatu's
only radio and TV stations. They broadcast in the country's three main
languages, Bislama, English, and French. It also publishes one of the
country's three main newspapers, the trilingual "Vanuatu Weekly".


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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