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Government encouraged to set end-date for newspaper ban

UPDATE: PM must step in on media complaint, says PFF (PFF, 20 June 2012)

(PFF/IFEX) - 22 May 2012 - Rarotonga, Cook Islands, - The publication ban on the Kiribati Independent newspaper by the current government needs to be followed up by a clear timeframe explaining the registration process, says regional media monitoring watchdog, the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF). Editor and founding publisher of the Kiribati Independent Taberannang Korauaba was instructed on Friday 18 May 2012 to immediately cease publication of his newspaper until his registration application is finalised.

"Having an independent news media service offers important information choices to the people of Kiribati, and effectively that's now been affected by the recent decision. We now have a group of media employees and Independent readers in limbo, without a date clarifying how long they will remain that way," says PFF chair Titi Gabi, of PNG. Korauaba had resumed publishing the Independent in March on legal advice that he could do so as his application had been lodged. He had previously published another, now defunct, news title in 2006 the same way, and this had gone unchallenged. The timing of the ban comes in the wake of recent articles in the Independent which have reportedly upset the government of the day.

"The order to cease publishing of the Kiribati Independent as per the Newspapers Act can avoid perceptions of political interference by clarifying to all what the steps are, and how long it will all take," says Gabi.

"On the flip side of asking for answers from government, it's important for members of the public and public figures to know their rights and choices when it comes to commending or complaining about news coverage. We encourage all media outlets in Kiribati to continue giving space in their publications advising on their ethics standards for journalists along with complaints procedures from the public," says PFF co chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.

"In line with media rights and responsibilities, Pacific governments and communities should be able to access a clear and credible complaints process for their grievances over news content and ethical standards. Using such a process not only helps keep the watchdogs at their best, it helps avoid perceptions that governments are using policy and law to gag the fourth estate."
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