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Government threatens to introduce bill restricting media freedom

(PINA/IFEX) - The Vanuatu government has warned it will be introducing a bill to curb media freedom in Vanuatu if local media outlets continue to publish biased and unfair opinions on government development policies, reports Radio Vanuatu.

The warning came from the country's ministry of agriculture after the "Independent" newspaper published an editorial opinion against remarks made by Minister Havo Moli encouraging the cultivation of rice in his home constituency of Santo.

The paper's editorial opinion said it was a conflict of interest for the minister to focus on rice farming only in his home constituency. It questioned the policy on rice farming on Santo Island following negative results from previous studies of cultivation of the crop on the island.

In a two-page response to the editorial opinion, the ministry's public relations officer, Jeff Patunvanu, said the personal opinion of the editor was not fair as he had failed to seek comments from the government prior to publication.

Patunvanu said his minister was encouraged to support rice cultivation on Santo following a recent study by a Chinese team that concluded that rice planting on the island could be developed.

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