Campaign over Solomons media freedom ‘misguided’, claims PM’s office

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Media freedom in Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands government recently removed the national broadcaster SIBC as a state-owned enterprise (SOE), citing "lack of ethics and professionalism" in how it disseminates information. Image: Solomon Times/Getty

Solomon Times

The Solomon islands Prime Minister’s office (PMO) has accused local news media of being involved in a “war on media freedom” that is misguided, unethical and unprofessional.

In a statement, the government said: “First and foremost, [the public broadcaster] SIBC is funded by SIG through community service obligations and subvention grants. It is a statutory body and not a private entity like Solomon Star or Island Sun.”

Second, SIBC was the national broadcaster that had a “duty to our people and country”, it added.

“That duty is to practice [sic], fair, responsible and ethical journalism, something that has decayed over the years to a point where pretty much anything gets published just to make a buck,” said the statement.

“It is a sad day for journalism and freedom of the press in this country when such indifference is not frowned upon or condemned by their fellow peers and profession.”

It said the action in removing SIBC as a state-owned enterprise was in response to SIBC’s claimed lack of ethics and professionalism in dissemination of information for public consumption.

The statement said that it was the duty of the government to protect “our people from lies and misinformation, especially when these very lies and misinformation is propagated by the national broadcaster”.

‘No one beyond approach’
“And just for the record, no one is beyond reproach, including the person who wrote the editorial for the Sunday Star [not named].

“The daily editorial is spinning stories and goes to show that they having nothing to say but everything to sell.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt made an observation that everybody needed to be reminded about.

“Freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of a democracy; but there is a difference between freedom and licence. Editorialists who tell downright lies in order to advance their own agendas do more to discredit the press than all the censors in the world,” the statement said.

The statement said that editors as gatekeepers should at least show “some sense of balance and fairness”.

“OPMC is concerned that if editors do not respect their important role then it is them who are a threat to freedom of press in our country, and not the government,” the statement concluded.

Mounting pressure on SIBC ‘disturbing’
However, in Auckland, Professor David Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report and convenor of Pacific Media Watch, described the mounting pressure on the public broadcaster Solomon islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) as “disturbing” and an “unprecedented attack” on the independence of public radio in the country.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the Prime Minister’s Office effectively gagging the most important news service in reaching remote rural areas,” he said.

It was also a damaging example to neighbouring Pacific countries trying to defend their media freedom traditions.
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