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PMC slams Kiribati ministry for ‘muzzling’ independent paper

Kiribati Independent

Kiribati Independent ... one of the controversial stories alleging business deals involving President Tong: Headline reads: "This is the truth, several government employees and members of the public speak out". Image: PMC/KI

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Pacific Media Watch and Radio NZ International

The head of the New Zealand-based Pacific Media Centre says a  Communications Ministry order for the Kiribati Independent newspaper to halt publication appears to be an attempt to muzzle a small publication that has caused embarrassment for the government.

The publisher of the Kiribati Independent, Taberannang Korauaba, says he believes the order, issued by the Ministry of Communications last Friday, is politically motivated because it has published stories that have upset President Anote Tong’s government.

The director of the Media Centre, Professor David Robie, says the paper was first suspended in April until required affidavits were presented but he believes newspaper laws are being selectively applied.

Taberannang Korauaba

Kiribati Independent publisher and editor Taberannang Korauaba. Photo: PMC/KI

“It seems that the goal posts have changed because the indication given to them then was that if they did that, they presented the affidavits then they could carry on publishing,” he told Radio New Zealand International.

“So it does seem to be that it’s being applied particularly in the case of the Kiribati Independent because there have been other publications that have been allowed to publish once they had their affidavits presented.”

He later told Pacific Media Watch that the 1989 Newspaper Registration Act was based on “archaic” legislation dating back to the colonial era, which was “more suited to authoritarian governance than the free flow of information under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

Lawsuits easier
The main purpose of the the law, as indicated in an “explanatory memorandum” is to make it easier for authorities to file lawsuits when “libelled by a newspaper”.

President Anote Tong

President Anote Tong ... denied allegations. Photo: Kiribati Independent/PMC

The memorandum says: “This act will not be peculiar to Kiribati: England enacted similar legislation as far back as 1881 and other countries both developed and developing have similar legislation.

“This Act was modelled closely on the Newspaper Registration Act of Fiji which came into force in 1895 as amended up to 1971”.

Kiribati's Newspaper Registration Act. Image: PMC

The Fiji law was strongly criticised by an independent media review in 1996. However, it is has now been replaced by the Media Development Decree imposed by the military backed regime in 2010.

Under the Kiribati newspaper law, violators risk a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment up to one year.

The Kiribati Independent has been twice warned by the Communications Ministry to cease publication until fully registered.

“Hopefully, this is just a case of sluggish bureaucracy. But a newspaper shouldn’t be bogged down by government red tape like this,” Dr Robie said.

The newspaper is bilingual – English and i-Kiribati language, and is published fortnightly with a print run of 400. It began publication in December.

Source: 7957 Pacific Media Watch

1 comment:

  1. Bob Wandstraat, 24. May 2012, 4:13

    Will you please post the stories (with English translations) that have upset the Government?

    Minny Tanks,

    Bob Wandstraat