VANUATU PM SOPE ANGERED OVER MEDIA LEAK

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PORT VILLA, Vanuatu (November 29, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Vanuatu Prime Minister Barak Sope is on the warpath against members and officials of his government responsible for leaking sensitive government documents to the media.

The prime minister has ordered the police commissioner to investigate the latest breach of government secrecy, where the decision of a confidential Council of Ministers meeting has been made public.

The revelation shows that the government is considering granting government bonds and preferential mining arrangements to a controversial Thai businessman.

A Vanuatu government spokesman said the breach of cabinet confidentiality is just the latest in a series of leaks to the media that has angered the prime minister.

The premature airing of private discussions can mislead the public, the spokesman said.

He said the media is wrongly portraying cabinet recommendations, which have not been passed by Parliament as final government decisions.

"The information leaked still has to be negotiated and amendments need to be put in place before they become reality," the spokesman said.

"The media may have been misinforming the public. The government has warned the media that it respects media freedom, but it wants to maintain balanced reporting," he added.

But Mark Neal Jones, the editor of Vanuatu Trading Post newspaper, said debate on foreign investment decisions should be in the public domain and not kept secret.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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