BID TO START NON-GOVERNMENT RADIO IN KIRIBATI LEADS TO CHARGES

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ALERT INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (IFEX) Toronto, Canada Website: http://www.ifex.org/ 

September 21, 1999

SOURCE: Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva

Efforts to set up the first non-government radio station on the main atoll in the central Pacific nation of Kiribati led to the station's directors being charged in court on September 17, 1999.

Ieremia Tabai and his partner in Newair FM, Atiera Tetoa, were jointly charged in the Magistrates' Court at Bairiki, the administrative center on Tarawa, the capital atoll and population center.

They were alleged to have imported radio communication equipment without a license and established, maintained or worked a radio communication station without a license.

Prosecuting and defense counsel then agreed with the case being adjourned until November 3, according to information obtained by PINA.

At present the Kiribati government-owned Broadcasting and Publications Authority operates Radio Kiribati and publishes the country's only newspaper, the weekly "Te Uekera."

Tabai says that the government does not want him to start an independent FM radio station and newspaper.

He is a former president of Kiribati (population 84,000) and former secretary-general of the South Pacific Forum, an inter-governmental organization of independent and self-governing Pacific Islands nations plus Australia and New Zealand.

When Tabai returned to Kiribati and began trying to set up the station the government alleged he was breaching the Telecommunications Act.

Tabai told the regional news magazine "Islands Business" that he has been lobbying the government since last year to give him a license for Newair FM.

He said that if he could not start the radio station he would start a newspaper. He added that with the existing radio station and newspaper being government-owned, "it's always good for the interest of the community, the interests of democracy, to have another voice in the community."

Tabai further stated that the plan was for Newair FM to at first cover South Tarawa, where he said a third of the country's population lives, including most civil servants. "What we need is a lot of competition in the market place," he told "Islands Business."

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.

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