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Solomon Islands Cabinet passes ban on Facebook
02:23 am GMT+12, 17/11/2020, Solomon Islands

Cabinet has agreed to ban the world’s biggest social networking site, Facebook, in Solomon Islands.
 
The submission for the ban on Facebook was said to be brought to Cabinet by the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Communication and Civil Aviation Minister Peter Shanel Agovaka.
 
Minister Agovaka told Solomon Times Online that this ban was made because of the controversial issues raised via Facebook.
 
“Abusive languages against Ministers, Prime Minister, character assassination, and defamation of character, all these are issues of concerns”, Agovaka says.
 
He says there were concerns that there are also no laws or regulations on Facebook thus the need for such a ban.
 
“The use of the internet now in Solomon Islands needs to be properly regulated to safeguard our young people from harmful content. At the moment there is no legislation to govern the use of the internet and even young kids can be able to download harmful stuff from the internet,” Agovaka told Solomon Times Online.
 
This is in addition to the controversial issues raised via Facebook.
 
However, he said the media should not have any cause for concern as there will still be freedom of the press.
 
He said media organisations will continue to operate as normal except for the closure of Facebook.
 
Most media organisations are now utilising Facebook as a platform to disseminate information to the public. The office of the Prime Minister also does a live video stream of his national address via Facebook to reach a wider audience.
 
“The government is still in discussion with the operators to work out how this can be done. The operators need to establish a firewall to block Facebook,” Agovaka said.
 
It is anticipated that a ban on Facebook will greatly affect much needed revenue for the operators.
 
As of October 2020, NapoleonCat, a social media management tool, says there are 120,000 Facebook users in Solomon Islands. People aged 18 to 24 were said to be the largest user group (45,000).
 
Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world, has 2.4 billion users.
 
Solomon Islands is not the only country in the Pacific considering a ban on Facebook.
 
In July 2020, the Samoan government was seriously looking at banning Facebook in their country. In 2018, the Papua New Guinea government sought to ban Facebook for a month while in Tonga, in 2019, there were also plans to ban Facebook in the small island Kingdom.
 
Currently only three countries in the world have banned Facebook - China, North Korea and Iran.
 
Other countries have only temporarily banned facebook in the past.
 
Meanwhile, if approved, the planned ban by Cabinet is a direct and brazen assault on the freedom of expression in Solomon Islands which is guaranteed by the country’s own national constitution says Opposition MP Peter Kenilorea.
 
“In making this decision, instead of protecting this fundamental and constitutional right, Cabinet has gone and done the exact opposite. Cabinet is now strangling the very right it should be upholding. This decision should be condemned by all freedom loving Solomon Islanders.
 
“Reports of a ban or suspension of FB is a grave concern for Solomon Islands, a democratic country. This highly regrettable decision is not just about FB. This decision has deep and far reaching consequences for us as a nation.
 
“This decision cuts to the heart of the democratic principles and values upon which our nation rests. The same values and principles that led to the establishment of Cabinet in the first place. Let us not erode these democratic principles and values by using our position of power to seemingly stifle dissenting voices.
 
“I look forward to the day that our leaders focus and begin to address the many real issues affecting our peoples and nation. Many of these issues are raised in FB,” he said in a statement.
 
Kenilorea said there are many challenges and obstacles facing the nation.  
 
“Let us all focus on those. Let us consult and dialogue with each other. Let us bring these important issues raised in FB into a more ‘dignified’ space, if need be. But let us not stifle the freedom of expression that all Solomon Islanders enjoy.
 
“We know that freedom of expression is not absolute. There are safeguards and processes in place to ensure that this right is not abused. As leaders, let us pursue and exhaust these avenues and processes which in turn reinforces our democratic values. As leaders, let us take the high road when a few go the low route.
 
“As leaders, we will face resentment from factions of a demanding and at times dissatisfied public. Much of the dissatisfaction and mistrust, whether real if perceived, will be aired. Sometimes these need to be aired. After all, we, leaders, need to be held accountable by the electorate that place us in positions of power. We need to face the music from time to time. This is democracy.
 
“But as leaders let us not attack one of the main pillars of democracy upon which our nation rests – the freedom of expression. Let us not mute the voices, however angry, of those that we have sworn to serve.
 
I strongly urge the cabinet to revoke their decision to suspend or ban FB and call on cabinet to protect the freedom of expression enshrined in our national constitution,” said Kenilorea.

SOURCE: SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE/PACNEWS


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