MEDIA RESTRICTIONS DECLARED IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 30, 1999 - PACNEWS/SIBC)---The Solomon Islands Government has announced media restrictions which could see editors jailed for up to two years for offences under the continuing state of emergency.

The restrictions focus mainly on reports that may cause racial or communal disharmony or hostility among different communities or racial groups.

The restrictions were published under the Emergency Powers Act yesterday and apply to all media organizations in the country.

In a first under the new restrictions, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) has been requested by the Prime Minister's office to refrain from reporting the details of the recently signed Honiara Peace Accord.

Minister of State Alfred Sasako said any reporting of details of the peace agreement could jeopardize today's meeting between the militants and Commonwealth Envoy Sitiveni Rabuka, Premier of Guadalcanal Ezekiel Alebua and several Government Ministers.

The Commonwealth envoy is again in the jungle east of Honiara today negotiating the Honiara Peace Accord with the militants.

In another development, Malaita Premier, David Oeta has praised his people for their patience, "even under so much pressure from the Guadalcanal militants."

In an address to the nation last night to mark the signing of the Peace Accord, Premier Oeta saluted the patience displayed by the Malaitans who have become victims of the unrest.

Oeta said Malaitans have become victims of a problem between Guadalcanal province and the national government.

However, he said Malaitans are willing to sit down and assist in finding a lasting solution to the problem, which has rocked the country for more than nine months.

The Premier of Guadalcanal, Ezekiel Alebua, expressed sadness at the way in which the unrest has affected families on both sides of the conflict.

Alebua said the Honiara Peace Accord was the first step towards finding a lasting solution to a national problem. At the same time, he called on the Guadalcanal militants to respect the accord and allow for negotiations.

Alebua also thanked the special envoy, Sitiveni Rabuka, for his hard work and contribution towards the accord, which, Alebua stressed, is the first step towards a lasting peace.

Meanwhile, a mission from the United Nations (UN) is now in Honiara to discuss with the Solomon Islands Government how the world body could assist in resolving the ethnic unrest.

Minister of State Alfred Sasako earlier told a news conference in Honiara that the Solomon Islands Government had requested the UN to send a mission to assess the ethnic tension. Their work would complement that which the Commonwealth envoy has achieved.

Head of the UN mission Kevin Kennedy arrived last night. The mission includes eight officers. SIBC understands the UN delegation was briefed on the ethnic tension at a meeting with Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu this morning. Rabuka also is expected to brief the mission on his peace negotiations with the Government and the militants since arriving in the country last week.

SOLOMONS IMPOSES MEDIA RESTRICTIONS

By Mary-Louise O'Callaghan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (June 30, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/The Australian/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Tough new emergency restrictions have been placed on the media in the Solomon Islands following the signing of a peace accord aimed at paving the way for a resolution of the Guadalcanal crisis.

The restrictions have forced the local Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) to drop its daily transmissions of Radio Australia and other international news services.

They give the Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Bart Ulufa'alu, the power to ban any publication or broadcast that he deems "may incite violence ... cause racial or communal disharmony or hostility."

Militants on the island of Guadalcanal, who have taken up arms to press their claims against settlers from the neighboring island of Malaita, were being briefed yesterday on the planned implementation of the accord, although they were not a direct party to it.

Late on Monday night, the Commonwealth's special envoy to the Solomon Islands, Fiji's Sitiveni Rabuka, had signed the four-page accord that sets out the principles for ongoing negotiations and officially acknowledges the Guadalcanalese's long-standing grievances for the first time.

These primarily concern the loss of sovereignty over their island, which houses the Solomons' capital, Honiara, and in particular the escalating loss of traditional lands to settlers from Malaita.

For the past decade they have also been demanding the establishment of a state government for Guadalcanal and the powers to control land ownership on the island.

Title -- 2194 SOLOMON IS: Solomons media gag Date -- 30 June 1999 Byline -- Mary-Louise O'Callaghan Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- The Australian, 30/6/99 Copyright -- MLOC/News Ltd. Status -- Abridged

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INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSIONEXCHANGE ALERT

June 30, 1999

SOLOMON ISLANDS INTRODUCES EMERGENCY MEDIA POWERS

SOURCE: Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva

**Updates IFEX alert of 3 February 1999**

On 28 June 1999, the Solomon Islands Government introduced emergency powers restricting media reporting amidst an ethnic conflict which has led to the declaration of state of emergency. In response, the national broadcaster, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, stopped rebroadcasting live news bulletins from Radio Australia and the British Broadcasting Corporation in case they breach the restrictions. This news from overseas is now being taped and rebroadcast after being checked.

Those convicted of breaching the emergency restrictions can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $Solomons 5,000. The restrictions forbid printing, broadcasting or communicating information which incites violence or is likely to cause racial or communal disharmony. They also forbid printing, broadcasting or communicating information "prejudicial" to the safety or interests of the state, or likely to cause "disaffection" with the government, or "hatred of contempt" for the administration of justice or national security. The powers also restrict the printing, broadcasting or communicating of information from official documents.

The state of emergency follows growing ethnic conflict on the island of Guadalcanal, where the Solomons Islands capital Honiara is located. A Guadalcanal militant movement is trying to drive out people from another major island, Malaita. It says Malaitans now dominate government and business and are increasingly occupying the lands of the Guadalcanal people. Thousands of Malaitans have fled back to Malaita following a series of attacks by the militants. The death toll is still unconfirmed because most of the militant attacks have taken place in the Guadalcanal countryside. The former Fiji Islands prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, has been sent to the Solomon Islands as a special Commonwealth envoy to try to help bring peace.

BACKGROUND

Guadalcanal was the scene of a major World War Two battle between American-led Allied forces and occupying Japanese forces. It recently featured in the award-winning movie "The Thin Red Line." Honiara became the capital of the then British Solomon Islands after Word War Two. It grew from a base and port United States forces built there during the battle to retake the Solomon Islands from the Japanese.

For further information, contact: Nina Ratulele, Coordinator PINA Pacific Freedom of Information Network

Pacific Islands News Association Mailing Address: Pacific Islands News Association Private Mail Bag, Suva Fiji Islands Street Address: Level 2, Damodar Centre 46 Gordon Street Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: +679 303623 Fax: +679 303943 E-mail: pina@is.com.fj

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