PINA URGES SOLOMON ISLANDS GOVERNMENT

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INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) ALERT

July 7, 1999

SOURCE: Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva **Updates IFEX alerts of 5 July, 2 July, 30 June and 3 February 1999**

TO REMOVE MEDIA RESTRICTIONS

On 6 July 1999, PINA urged the Solomon Islands government to lift restrictions imposed on the media under a state of emergency. PINA said these restrictions date from colonial times and are not appropriate for a modern democracy.

PINA said they are also in serious breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says: "Everyone has the right to freedom of information and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

PINA understands that in the Solomon Islands, like in many other parts of the Pacific, much of this draconian "emergency powers" legislation has been in place from colonial times. It calls on the governments of the region to exercise the extreme powers handed to them by this legislation with caution.

PINA said it is sad to see media restrictions like this imposed in a country, which has one of the best records for media freedom in the region.

Open debate and clear credible communication are essential in times of national disaster or civil unrest. Remove it and the media are replaced by rumor and speculation, which can only make matters worse, PINA said.

Background

On 28 June 1999, the Solomon Islands government introduced emergency powers restricting media reporting amidst ethnic conflict which has led to the declaration of a state of emergency. Those convicted of breaching the emergency restrictions can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to S$ 5,000 (approx. US$ 1,035). 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 Honiara, the Solomons Islands capital, is located. A Guadalcanal militant movement is trying to drive out people who come from another major island, Malaita. The movement is claiming that Malaitans 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. Honiara became the capital of the then British Solomon Islands after Word War Two. It grew from a base and port built by United States forces 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

Internet site: http://www.pressasia.org/PFA/

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of PINA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit PINA.

DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 489 College Street Toronto (ON) M6G 1A5 CANADA Tel: +1 416 515 9622 Fax: +1 416 515 7879 Alerts e-mail: alerts@ifex.org General e-mail: ifex@ifex.org Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/

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