ABC blasts Honiara for ‘factual errors’ in attack over Pacific Capture doco

Pacific Capture
Pacific Capture ... "How Chinese money is buying the Solomon Islands." Image: ABC screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

The ABC has soundly condemned the Solomon Islands Office of the Prime Minister for a series of “factual errors” in a statement released which criticised the Four Corners investigative report Pacific Capture: How Chinese money is buying the Solomons.

In a rare statement defending its independent journalism, it said today the ABC “stood by the accuracy and integrity” of the reporting in this programme.

It said about the programme broadcast on August 4:

The ABC wishes to correct the following factual errors in the press release issued by the Solomon Islands Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet regarding the Four Corners report Pacific Capture, which examined the impact of China’s growing presence across Solomon Islands.

At no point did the program rely on “misinformation and distribution of pre-conceived prejudicial information”.

It was not our intention to “cause division between the governments of Australia and Solomon Islands”, rather to highlight issues of concern to all Solomon Islanders.

We completely reject the offensive notion of “racial profiling that is bordering racism and race stereotyping”. In fact, we were determined to tell the story from the perspective of Solomon Islanders and the program reflected their concerns. Its main interviews were with two eminent Solomon Islanders, rather than relying on “foreign experts” as is often the case. The ABC rejects the idea that we were “putting words into the mouths of the interviewees” and sees this as insulting to the Solomon Islanders who appeared in the program.

On the issue of Kolombangara, the ABC did not say that the “shareholders have made a decision to sell off the company to a Chinese firm”. Rather, the program accurately reported that the issue had been discussed at board level and that the Australian directors were so concerned about a potential sale to a Chinese state-owned company that they twice wrote to the Federal Government expressing concerns that the purchase could be used by Beijing to establish a base under the cover of a commercial enterprise. Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s office confirmed it was aware of the issue. Her office has also not ruled out intervening. The ABC also notes that the plantation on Kolombangara is owned 85 per cent by the Nien Family of Taiwan and 15 percent by the government of the Solomon Islands, not the 60/40 split claimed in the press release.

It is incorrect to claim that the program did not acknowledge that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare “repeatedly reaffirmed to Solomon Islanders and the Pacific region that there will be no military or naval base in Solomon Islands”.

The program said: “At a meeting in Fiji, Sogavare assured the new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese that Beijing won’t be allowed to establish a military base in the Solomons.” It went on to say that one of the main concerns was that a commercial enterprise controlled by Beijing could one day be used to house military assets.

The ABC stands by the accuracy and integrity of the reporting in this program.

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