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Reports Highlight Militant Threats To Journalist

REPORTS HIGHLIGHT MILITANT THREATS AGAINST JOURNALIST

* See PMW items 3008, 3007

HONIARA (PMW): An international news agency and world media freedom and human rights groups have hightlighted reports that a Solomon Islands journalist is in grave danger from a militant group which has seized the country's government.

Amnesty International, the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres and Sydney-based Pacific Media Watch are among groups which have protested to the Solomon Islands Government about the threats and appealed for a guarantee of safety for Angiki and his family.

Angiki, an experienced Solomon Islands journalist, who last year graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism at the University of the South Pacific and won the institution's Storyboard Award for regional journalism, has been a freelance correspondent for several media outlets.

He has covered the ongoing political crisis in the Solomon Islands with an independent perspective. In recent months he has been based in the western town of Gizo where several local journalists have taken refuge.

Being from Rennell and Bellona Province, he is independent of the two major feuding ethnic groups.

Angiki has reported for Agence France-Presse, Gemini news service, Pasifik Nius website and other media.

According to Agence France-Presse, a feature of his published last week by the wire service reported that "ethnic violence had become common business in the capital, Honiara".

"Since the rebel Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) seized the government in a June 5 coup the situation has worsened in Honiara on Guadalcanal, a city now down to around 20,000 people," AFP reported.

"The Solomons has been wracked by the violence for several years, instigated by a group of indigenous Guadalcanal inhabitants who created what became the Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM), aimed at driving migrant Malaitan islanders off the island. Honiara has now become a Malaitan enclave controlled by the MEF."

In a letter on 29 September 2000 to the Solomons Minister of Police and National security, William Haomae, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) expressed its concern about the "death threats" received by Angiki.

The organisation asked the minister "to guarantee the journalist's safety".

Robert Ménard, the organisation's secretary-general, reminded the minister that "he had to protect journalists, who merely exercise their right to inform".

According to information collected by RSF, Angiki had been threatened several times by lawyer Andrew Nori, one of the leaders of the (MEF) militia.

On September 27, Nori allegedly phoned Angiki at his home in Gizo, threatening him with "reprisals" after the publication of an article on two web sites, Pasifik Nius and Pacific Islands Report. In his report, the journalist had alleged that Nori had received money from the authorities.

The MEF leader allegedly told the journalist that he and his family "were in danger" if he failed to withdraw his articles from the web sites and write a letter of apology. If not, according to Nori, Lesley Kwaiga, another leader of the MEF, could "avenge him" for this article.

In a letter to Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare on 29 September 2000, Pacific Media Watch (PMW) said it was concerned for the safety of Angiki, his family and other relatives, one who is also a prominent journalist, Dykes Angiki.

"Our information says several telephone calls were allegedly made to the home of Mr Angiki in Gizo ... threatening him over an article published by the Pasifik Nius website and other news services," PMW said.

"We understand the threats included a demand for a 'withdrawal' of Mr Angiki’s article from the website(s), a public retraction and an apology within one week.

"He was also warned to stop reporting on the crisis."

Since 1998, the IFM and MEF militias have been clashing on Guadalcanal Island for the defence of native inhabitants and Malaitan immigrants, respectively. More than 60 people have been killed and 20,000 have been displaced.

+++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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