Solomon Islands Opposition Leader Matthew Wale has lashed out at the Prime Minister’s decision to remove the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) as a State Owned Enterprise (SOE).
In a statement, Wale said this is yet again another scheme orchestrated by the Prime Minister to curtail activities of SIBC as the voice of the nation and people of Solomon Islands.
The Opposition Leader said the Prime Minister’s decision is a clear attempt to directly control and censor the news content of SIBC.
“This will hijack well entrenched principles of law on defamation and freedom of speech thus depriving the public using SIBC to freely express their views, or accessing information on government activities,” he said.
Wale said it is a bad and regrettable decision that lacks any sensible policy rationale and a threat to press freedom in the country.
The Opposition Leader said the Prime Minister must accept that derogatory reporting is never an automatic wrong in law.
He said reporting truth and fair comment are justifiable even if they hurt.
Wale said that is why courts are there to order payment of compensation to any person aggrieved by any report by SIBC or any other media outlet for that matter.
The Opposition Leader said as leaders they are subject to criticism and it is absolutely right for people to voice their concerns against us leaders.
“Allowing the Prime Minister to control SIBC activities is not only contrary to law but can also have far-reaching consequences. It may well be draconian leaving no room for corruption by ministers and government officials to be brought to public attention,” he said.
Wale said it is hypocritical to suggest that government streamlining of SIBC news will serve the greater public interest.
He said the Prime Minister can never be neutral in cases where SIBC wants to publish news implicating the wrongful decisions of the government and its cronies when breaking the law.
The Opposition Leader said the decision therefore is a gag on the freedom of expression with the consequences that are potentially repugnant to the rule of law and the democratic principles of good and transparent governance.
“Lest the Prime Minister forgets, SIBC does not belong to him or the DCGA government. It is owned by the people of Solomon Islands to carry the voice of the people in this nation,” he said.
Wale said this action is trampling on the people’s right to hear a diversity of views and opinions, especially those critical of the Prime Minister and his government.
“The government is not the private business of the Prime Minister and his cronies. Their exercise of government is of interest to all citizens. SIBC must not be prevented by the narrow political interests of the Prime Minister from truthfully reporting how government powers are being used or abused,” he said.
The Leader of Opposition urged the Prime Minister to revoke this wrong decision and reaffirm SIBC’s total control of & independence in its editorial policy.
SOURCE: SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE/PACNEWS