Solomons Police Disperse Group Trying To Extort Newspaper

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Solomon Star faces compensation demands over front page story

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Jan. 4, 2013) – Police dispersed a large group of men from the Solomon Star premises at about 10pm on Friday night, who came and demanded $100,000 from the newspaper.

They were the second group of extortionists to have threatened and intimidate the paper’s news staff after its front page news story on Friday.

[PIR editor’s note: The story in question was about the Prime Minister’s lawyer’s warning to local media not to publish stories related to allegations that Lilo had a affair. PM Lilo has denied the allegations, originally posted on the Facebook page of Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII).]

The first group, who claimed to be relatives of a woman Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo allegedly had an affair with, knocked at the Solomon Star office hours after Friday’s paper hit the streets.

This second group came to the Solomon Star office after 6pm.

They claimed to have been sent by prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo’s wife, Bronwyn Lilo.

The group argued the story the Solomon Star published was not true and so the paper must pay compensation.

They shouted abusive words against the newspaper and threatened to harm the news staff if compensation was not paid.

Newspaper staff working to produce next day’s paper told them based on legal advice from its lawyer Andrew Nori, the company will not pay their demand.

They were also told that if they want compensation, they are free to sue the paper so that the court can decide on the amount.

In response, members of the group insisted they don’t want to take the matter to court; they just wanted compensation paid.

Police were called but they still refused to leave the newspaper’s premises.

They argued that it was Madam Lilo who sent them so compensation must be paid.

One of them called Madam Lilo on his mobile phone, putting the speaker on for the police officers to hear.

The voice, believed to be from Madam Lilo, that came through the mobile phone’s speaker said: "Solomon Star must pay compo before oketa man ia leave".

The officers already at the Star premises called for police reinforcement and two vehicles of officers arrived a short time later.

A verbal confrontation between the police officers and the group ensued.

However, the men started leaving when police warned them to leave or they’ll spend the night in jail.

They left but warned to return the next morning.

True to their words, some returned in the morning and insisted of payment of compensation.

They left only when police arrived, but warned of damaging Solomon Star vehicles on the roads.

No compensation was paid.

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