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SOLOMON IS: Provincial ban on Solomon Star

SOLOMON IS: Provincial ban on Solomon Star

Pacific Media Watch Online:
http://www.pmw.c2o.org

By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands (Wantok Press): The Solomon Islands' only weekdays daily newspaper, the Solomon Star, has been banned from sale in the three provincial towns of Western Province.

The ban followed widespread anger over what critics claimed as "the newspaper's clear bias and consistent glorifying of the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF)".

Critics said there were two sides in the ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal Island, the MEF and rival militia Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM).

But critics said that over the last 19 months, the newspaper only consistently covered issues that highlighted and promoted MEF.

The Solomon Star agent in the Western Provincial capital, Gizo, Richard Tekifono, yesterday confirmed that the ban had been put in place since June 5.

He said the public in the province had threatened him due to what they claimed as "the newspaper over dramatising and sensationalising of MEF criminal activities in Honiara."

Critics accused the newspaper through its agents in the province of bias towards the MEF and ignoring of "human suffering" in its weekly coverage.

Tekifono said the allegations against the newspaper had caused resentment towards the Solomon Star, with critics labelling it as "an MEF propaganda newspaper".

A leading advocator of media freedom in the Solomon Islands, Dr John Roughan, earlier expressed similar sentiment about the newspaper over dramatising in pictures of MEF operations in Honiara.

Dr Roughan said the newspaper should give prominent coverage to the "human suffering" caused by the conflict, instead of glorifying the MEF.

The Solomon Star publisher, John Lamani, said the newspaper was only carrying stories and pictures of events that were actually taking place in the country.

He added that the events were part of the country's history and they should be recorded for future references.

Tekifono said the newspaper coverage of the conflict had reached a stage where the public in Western Province no longer saw it as objective journalism.

Public anger led to the ban on the sale of the Solomon Star in the three Western Province towns of Gizo, Munda and Noro.

Western Province Premier Ruben Lilo today said his government respected the wish of his people but did not necessarily support the ban.

His government needed to know what was going on in the country and the outside world and only the media could provide this.

But the premier's view failed to change the ban and the critics' claim that they were fed-up with reading one-sided stories that glorified the MEF.

The Solomon Star is the only weekdays daily English newspaper in the country. It has been published out of the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara, since 1982.

The newspaper is owned by a Malaitan publisher, John Lamani, who is from

Kwara'ae in Malaita Province.

His news team comprises of a Malaitan news editor with two Malaitan reporters and two other reporters from different ethnic groups in the Solomon Islands.

In late 1997, Guadalcanal militants, now known as Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), took-up arms against Malaitans occupying customary land on Guadalcanal island since 1945.

The conflict resulted in more than 20,000 Malaitans displaced on Guadalcanal and more than 60 people killed.

This saw the birth of the Malaitan Eagle Force (MEF) which claims to represent displaced Malaitans on the island of Guadalcanal.

Events dramatically changed the scenario in the Solomon Islands when the MEF, led by leading lawyer and former politician, Andrew Nori, raided the police armoury in Honiara and took over the government in a coup on June 5.

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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