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Threatened Journalist Reassured Over Family

HONIARA: Threatened Solomon Islands journalist Duran Angiki has been personally reassured of his family's safety by Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) spokesman Andrew Nori, according to media sources.

He was given that assurance by Nori during a telephone conversation on 1 October 2000 before the MEF lawyer called a media conference the following day to deny that threats had been made against 32-year-old Angiki and his family who live in the western town of Gizo.

However, media sources told Pacific Media Watch that several threats had been made against Angiki and his family through intermediaries on September 27 and 28.

It is understood that Angiki stands by his reports. He had been accused by the militia of being "anti-MEF, anti-Malaita, supporter of IFM [the rival Isatabu Freedom Movement of Guadalcanal]"

On October 3, the regional news cooperative Pacnews reported Nori denying media reports that he had threatened Angiki and his family.

"I deny these allegations. At no time have I made any telephone calls to any journalists, including Angiki or any member of his family issuing threats against them," he was quoted by Pacnews as saying, citing a Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) report.

The Pacnews report quoted Nori as saying Angiki had rang him last Thursday [September 28] upon learning from other sources that his life and that of members of his families might be at risk.

"Nori said during their telephone conversation, he advised Angiki about the 'dangers of making provocative, sensational and false statements' on the current crisis, especially when [Nori] was labouring to bring members of MEF to the negotiation table to restore peace in the Solomon Islands.

"He admitted telling the journalist about allegations in Angiki's reports that the government had paid him SOL$1 million (US$201,446) for work done for the MEF. He said the allegations were false," reported Pacnews.

"Nori also admitted charging the government SOL$300,000 (US$60,433) for his advisory role to the MEF. He denied charging fees for preparing submissions for displaced Malaitans."

On October 2, Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) released a statement on the IFEX media freedom action alert network claiming "[Nori] said he also spoke to Angiki about what Nori called 'absolutely false' statements reporting that he is charging the Solomon Islands government one million SOL dollars for work he is doing."

Both the SIBC and PINA reports misrepresented what the Angiki article alleged. The article referred to an alleged payment of SOL$113,000 as part of a "claim" for a total amount of one million SOL dollars.

The SIBC reported that clause 11 of the ceasefire agreement obligates the government to pay for professional law services of both the MEF and IFM.

Angiki is an experienced independent Solomon Islands journalist and last year won the University of the South Pacific's Storyboard Award for regional journalism.

* BACKGROUND: Nori held a media conference on October 2 but did not communicate with the various media and human rights monitoring groups which reported the allegations.

In mid-September, gunmen threatened and attacked prominent people who had called for civil society to be allowed to play a role in the peace process, and who had publicly opposed a blanket amnesty for those involved in the conflict, which has left more than 100 people dead, according to Amnesty International.

One outspoken person calling for civil society to be given an active role in the talks was Matthew Wale, a manager from Malaita island. His family was attacked at home by gunmen, believed to be MEF members, on the night of September 8. His cousin was severely beaten, and the gunmen stole valuables, in an apparent punishment attack for Matthew Wale's role in a Solomon Islands Christian Association organised "National Peace Conference"

Following the conference, MEF members also threatened the director of the University of the South Pacific Centre, Julian Treadaway, for his plans to hold a public forum to discuss the proposed amnesty. MEF gunmen also reportedly threatened to burn down the university centre.

Amnesty International remains concerned about the situation in the Solomon Islands. The MEF is a paramilitary group supported by sections of the police. In June it led a coup, forcing the Prime Minister to resign and the Parliament to form a new government. The new Prime Minister promised to consider an amnesty for armed groups involved in the conflict, as an incentive for a ceasefire.

Since then, civil society groups and journalists, who have warned against the idea of a blanket amnesty for paramilitary groups that have committed human rights abuses, have increasingly been threatened or attacked by MEF, according to Amnesty International (see UA 282/00, ASA 43/08/00, 13 September 2000).

The human rights organisation says all sides to the ethnic conflict have been responsible for human rights violations, and so far there has been almost complete impunity for those responsible.



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