‘Foreign media must understand that the manner in which journalists are allowed to conduct themselves in other countries does not give them the right to operate in the same manner in the Pacific’
| Pacific Media Watch
AUCKLAND - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the Solomon Islands government for threatening to ban or deport foreign journalists “disrespectful” of the country’s relationship with China.
The IFJ said this was a “grave infringement on press freedom” and called on prime minister Manasseh Sogavare to ensure all journalists in the Solomon Islands remain free to report.
In a detailed statement, the Solomons’ government criticised foreign media for failing to abide by the standards expected of journalists writing and reporting about Solomon Islands affairs.
The government warned it would implement swift measures to prevent journalists from entering or staying in the country if they were not “respectful” or “courteous”.
The statement specifically targeted an episode of the Four Corners investigative television program broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
The report, Pacific Capture, was accused of “racial profiling” and intentionally using “misinformation” in its recent coverage of the growing influence of China in the Solomons.
“ABC or other foreign media must understand that the manner in which journalists are allowed to conduct themselves in other (countries) does not give them the right to operate in the same manner in the Pacific,” the government’s statement read.
“The Pacific is not the same as Australia or United States. When you chose to come to our Pacific islands, be respectful, be courteous and accord the appropriate protocols.”
The ABC rejected the claim that the program included “misinformation and distribution of pre-conceived prejudicial information.”
It said the program’s main interviewees including two prominent Solomon Islanders.
Solomons has been the subject of global controversy following the signing of a wide-ranging deal with China to strengthen Solomons’ national security and to address climate change issues.
On 1 August, the government ordered the national radio and television Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation to censor reports critical of the government, a major blow to press freedom.
Currently, journalists can enter the country and obtain a visa on arrival. The government did not reveal how the new restrictions would be enforced or to whom they would apply.
“The statement released by the office of prime minister Sogavare is extremely concerning and, if actioned, will pose a critical threat to press freedom,” the International Federation of Journalists said.
“The IFJ strongly condemns the threats made by the Solomon Islands government and urges the country to respect the right of all journalists to freedom of expression.”