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Solomon Islands Govt Introduces Internal Media Ban

Solomon Islands: Government Introduces Internal Media Ban

By Duran Angiki

GIZO, Solomon Islands (WP): The Solomon Islands Government has introduced an internal media ban on information from the government related to the ethnic conflict between the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF) and Isatabu Freedom Movement (IFM) militia.

Government Information Unit Director Alfred Maesulia said the ban from 18 September 2000 was aimed at controlling information that could harm the current peace-negotiations between the two ethnic militia.

The warring parties in the 20-month ethnic conflict in the Solomons, MEF and IFM, were given two weeks by the Solomon Islands Government to prepare for more peace negotiations in the next few weeks in Australia.

This follows two weeks of tense negotiation between the two ethnic groups on board the New Zealand navy frigate, Te Kaha, off the coast of the Solomons national capital, Honiara a fortnight ago.

Maesulia said at this stage the chances of misinformation that could create more problems than good for the forthcoming peace-talks were high.

Due to the current situation, the Government decided that such restriction would be good to curtail the chances of misinformation that could backfire on the government.

Before the ban, much "misinformation" had come out from various ministries and departments and published in the local media.

He said that while the Government respected individual rights, the best way for it to maintain a unified position on issues related to the conflict was to control the out flow of information.

The internal ban was not aimed at the independent media and the state-own national broadcasting station, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC).

It was intended to esnure that information releases from the Government, either from ministers or officials, should not jeopardise the current fragile stage of the peace talks.

Maesulia said that from September 18 information from the Government to the media had to be screened and accepted by his department before it was released.

He assured independent media that they would not be affected in any way by the ban but the Government expected them to be "more responsible" in their coverage of issues related to the current conflict.

The Government would not stop the public from making statement in the media nor the media from carrying public statements, adding that the time frame for the internal ban started now until the end of the peace-talks in Cairns, Australia.

the president of the Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI), George Atkin, yesterday said the media ban in a way had its own merits.

This was taking into consideration the safety of the people, but he expressed worry that the application of the ban would in many ways affect the media.

He said one of the problems that he envisaged in such screening process would be the difficulty of journalists obtaining immediate information from the Government.

+++niuswire

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


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