Pacific Scoop

Pacific media condemn minister ‘and his thugs’ for attack on Daily Post

Vanuatu Daily Post

Vanuatu Daily Post's front page report today of an alleged assault by supporters of Public Utilities Minister Harry Iauko. Image: PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the Pacific Media Centre news desk

Pacific media organisations have reacted with outrage over a violent attack on the Vanuatu Daily Post allegedly led by a cabinet minister with the newspaper publisher vowing to bring assault charges against those involved.

The mid-afternoon attack happened yesterday when Public Utilities Minister Harry Iauko led a group of men into the newspaper office who allegedly assaulted publisher Marc Neil-Jones, threatened his editor and other staff, according to a Daily Post front page report today.

Editor Royson Willie wrote in the newspaper that the aggressive visit to the office was because the Daily Post had published articles “about the minister’s handling of land issues, the Airports Vanuatu Limited board suspension, Transparency International’s column and letters to editor”. All these issues were reported during the week.

Police arrived at the Daily Post just as the group was leaving and are reportedly investigating.

Marc Neil-Jones

Publisher Marc Neil-Jones ... assaulted.

Publisher Marc Neil-Jones, a 53-year-old diabetic, angrily condemned the group for the attack, saying: “I can’t think of many countries where a minister of state would survive long if he marched into a national newspaper with a gang of thugs employed within the ministry and assaulted the publisher of a national daily paper because he didn’t like the valid criticism he was getting from all quarters, including the newspaper, members of the public through letters to the editor and Transparency International.”

Editor Royson Willie called the attack “a disgrace and unacceptable”.

“This is appalling,” said Cook Islands News publisher John Woods, who is also an executive member of the regional Pasifika Media Association. He paid tribute to Neil-Jones’ courage.

“It behoves us all to support Marc and his newspaper against bigotry and violence like this.”

‘Mindless brutality’
Dr David Robie, director of the Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre, also condemned the “mindless brutality” of the attack on a free press and called on Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s government to sack the minister and rigorously investigate the attack.

The centre runs a Pacific Media Watch project and reported the attack earlier today.

The front page Daily Post report said:

The group led by the minister entered the Daily Post office quietly and all – including the Minister for Public Utilities – went into the publisher’s office and assaulted him at his desk.

The minister was clearly heard by Daily Post staff shouting at the top of his voice as Neil-Jones was assaulted.

An angry Neil-Jones said he would be pressing charges against the minister on several counts, including aiding and abetting an assault.

He said he will be pressing charges against the minister because he was the one who could have stopped the men from going into the Daily Post office to assault, but instead Iauko stood right next to him and watched the assault taking place.

Strangled, kicked
A doctor’s examination on Neil-Jones found marks on his neck indicating someone had attempted to strangle him. Neil-Jones said he was grabbed by the neck and kicked.

“I was particularly angry to seek Jay Ngwele with the group because he owes me over Vt300,000 for construction work that he was paid to do but never did,” he said.

Minister Iauko also threatened the editor of the Daily Post, Royson Willie, saying “yu wantem mi brekem face blo yu?” (do you want me to break your face?) with one of the men by the name of Nanua from North Tanna threatening the editor.

The editor has condemned the attack on the free and independent media in Vanuatu, saying such action is a disgrace and unacceptable, especially when a state minister was involved in such completely not statesmanship action.

The men with the minister were mostly from North Tanna, Middle Bush on Tanna and Whitesands on Tanna, living in Port Vila.

The thugs used a government vehicle with registration number G762 to carry out the act.

This government vehicle was driven by Iauko’s political crony, Jay Ngwele.

Marc Neil-Jones has been attacked and threatened by politicians on several past occasions because of the outspoken stance of his newspaper Daily Post. In January 2009, he suffered a broken nose, cuts and a kick to the body when Correctional Service officers attacked him in the office over an article about the burning down of  the French jail.

In 2000, he was deported by then Prime Minister Barak Sope for publishing “state secrets” – including “the news that eventually got Sope convicted in court”.

Read the Pacific Media Watch report including publisher Marc Neil-Jones’ statement
Pacific Freedom Forum statement


  1. jason brown, 5. March 2011, 20:35

    . . .

    David Robie and the PMC are right.

    Messages of concern, condemnation and outrage have come from at least a dozen Pacific capitals over the last dozen hours.

    PFF is in the process of drafting a statement to add to those above and others.

    . . .

  2. stevenson liu, 6. March 2011, 12:17

    this is really sad. PM kilman should sack iauko on the spot.

  3. Coralia, 7. March 2011, 10:35

    This is yet another attack on Mr. Neil-Jones & media freedom in Vanuatu…..& the attacks are getting serious & bolder. It urgently requires the Govt. to do something to ensure media freedom & the security of media personnels in Vanuatu. Who knows what can happen if there’s another attack? Mr. Neil-Jones has been through a lot already.

    And btw….how low could a cabinet minister go??? What did he think he was…a Mafia boss????….unacceptable, despicable, criminalistic & inhumane in every sense of the word!…calls for PM Kilman to suspend the guy pending investigations….no wait…that’s a bit too civil for a thug like him….just do everyone a favor & kick him out….what a disgrace!

  4. Passi, 7. March 2011, 10:44

    Makes my blood boils…hope he get jail time and be banned from politics for good!

  5. Semisi, 8. March 2011, 12:45

    Maintaining a responsible, free press can be problematic in Pacific societies. Those who misuse their power, or don’t use their power very well, often have no hesitation about taking criticism as a pesonal insult and reacting with physical violence if they think they can get away with it, which Vanuatu Public Utilities Minister Harry Iauko obviously thinks. Imagine a whole government run by characters like Harry Iauko. Scary, isn’t it? Government officials should remember that they are public servants, and while it’s true that you can’t please everyone, if you are earning a salary funded by the public, then the public has every right to raise questions and even make criticisms, regardless of whether those criticisms are right or wrong. We’ve seen time and time again how easily Pacific governments fall into patterns of corruption. Maybe this is just a growing phase, but if the press is not allowed to hold government accountable, then who will? If you chase away those who try to tell the truth, then all you’d be left with is a country going downhill because of corrupt government.

  6. Jeff, 21. May 2011, 18:47

    Greetings from me Jeff from West Papua.
    crimes against humanity Indonesia in West Papua in Press please broadcast the Pacific because, the mass media in Indonesia the colonial government banned broadcast.
    and we need humanitarian assistance from the Pacific States by splitting the rights of freedom of our nation, the West Papuan people, because we were threatened with violence brutal Indonesian military.
    Crime humanity, such as suspicion, terror, intimidation, persecution, arrest, robbery, rape, kidnapping, murder, and destruction against the Nation of Papua Bbarat continue to do by the Colonial Government of Indonesia. they do Genocide Slowly, in a systematic and organized, because Indonesia saw a vast land of West Papua and the abundant natural wealth so they try to destroy them occupied.
    Our nation was heading for extinction of West Papua.
    Please help save us from extinction.
    the Ambassadors from other countries came to Indonesia they met only the Government of Indonesia and officials as perpetrators of evil, but they do not meet the people of West Papua as a victim, then the Indonesia Crime Indonesia tertutub and increasingly brutal and systematic.

  7. Electronic Redaction, 13. July 2011, 22:03

    This is very shameful thing; government officials forgot that they are public servants, this is the reason why Pacific governments fall into patterns of corruption.