It is important that media criticism of the government is based upon facts and constitutes fair comment. This is vital to preserve the credibility of the media
ADELAIDE - Requiring the media to 'instil unity amongst our people' – as the Solomons prime minister proposes - is all too often code for 'do not criticise the government even if this is warranted'.
In Australia, the Liberal-National Party governments have been notoriously critical of the ABC because, as they see it, the management and journalists are biased against the conservative side of politics.
As prime minister John Howard’s adviser Graeme Morris once framed the problem, “The ABC is our enemy talking to our friends”.
They have sought to either control or punish the ABC in various ways ranging from attempting to stack the Board with conservative sympathisers through to imposing unjustified budget cuts.
All of these moves are straight out of the authoritarian playbook as demonstrated by Donald Trump's stacking of the US Supreme Court with reactionary judicial thinkers.
Then there are the even more egregious activities of people like Vladimir Putin in Russia and Recep Erdogan in Turkey.
Both of these men have systematically removed critics from the major state institutions, especially the public service, military, media and judiciary.
This has ensured that these basic institutions are entirely beholden to and supportive of the government and, in particular, the leader.
Consequently, Sogavare's comments must be regarded with a certain amount of scepticism.
That said, there is some validity in what Sogavare is saying.
It is important that any criticism of the government is based upon facts and constitutes fair comment.
This is vital to preserve the credibility of the media. If the audience detects obvious bias this not only damages the media but democracy as well.
For example, the obvious conservative bias of the Murdoch owned media in Australia has resulted in a greatly diminished credibility for its many broadcast and newspaper outlets.
This was reflected in the recent election campaign where the Murdoch media’s sometimes strident support for the Morrison government appears to have been ineffective in influencing voters and possibly counterproductive.
Governments are always going to have an uneasy relationship with national broadcasters: politicians tend to love them whilst in opposition but feel much less well-disposed towards them when in government.