admin's picture

TARAWA, Kiribati (December 5, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---The people of the Micronesian nation of Kiribati in the central Pacific are being exposed to something new - an attempt to set up non-government media.

The man behind the move to establish both a radio station and a newspaper independent of government control is not somebody to be scoffed at.

He's former President Ieremia Tabai, who led his country during a maximum-allowed 12-year presidential term. He also served as Secretary General of the South Pacific Forum (now the Pacific Islands Forum) and is a current member of parliament.

Despite his solid credentials, Tabai has found obstacles constantly being put in his way.

"It’s been over two years now since I first tried to establish an FM radio station," he said. "It wasn’t until the very last minute, when I was about to go on the air, that I received an advisory from the government that I couldn’t go on the air without a license. But from the very beginning, the government was very aware of what I was doing."

He said government-owned media is the government’s way of trying to control what is fed to residents.

"(The government) feels they can dictate what goes in the paper and on the air. That’s why this is a very important project. I feel we have an obligation to the people to ensure the leaders are performing in ways we expect them to," he said.

After being frustrated with the roadblocks in trying to set up a radio station, Tabai six months ago began a weekly newspaper, The Kiribati New Star.

"The first time I started it, there was a press release coming out of the government saying they are going to form a media task force. They said it was to enable the government’s news to get out more easily.

"In general, we get the impression that those in government would rather see us die. They would never say it in public, but the way things are happening they are designed to make our efforts more difficult" he said.

Tabai and his wife distribute their newspaper, which costs AUS$ 0.60 (US$ 0.32), on the main island of Tarawa each Friday.

Distribution to the outer islands also is made, and is increasing.

His proposed FM station will be housed in his office in south Tarawa.

The radio’s transmitter is expected to arrive within days, Tabai said.

"The future is looking better now. I’ve gotten a license to transport my transmitter. The only thing I need is a license to operate. Assuming, if things go well, I ought to be on the air by the beginning of next year," he said.

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

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment