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Vanuatu needs more consultation on new media law

Prime Minister Joe Natuman speaks to Reuters outside his office in Port Vila, capital city of Vanuatu, 19 March 2015
Prime Minister Joe Natuman speaks to Reuters outside his office in Port Vila, capital city of Vanuatu, 19 March 2015

REUTERS/Edgar Su

This statement was originally published on pacificfreedomforum.org on 11 July 2015.

Vanuatu government leaders must consider giving more time for consultation on a proposed media law, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"One week is nowhere near enough for proper consultation to take place on such important legislation," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

"Vanuatu should consider following the example set by countries like Samoa, where new media laws have been under consideration for more than two years."

The new government of Sato Kilman has publicly stated that the new media law could be introduced as early as next week.

"Gaining power through a vote of no confidence does not give government the mandate from voters to potentially threaten their freedoms of speech."

In his statement, Kilman attacked public comments on radio talkback shows and social media, accusing them of "inciting social anarchy, instability and disorder in the community".

He also called on journalists to ensure that they had both sides of the story when reporting, including comment from government.

PFF Co Chair Monica Miller said that government could help achieve that goal by ensuring state broadcasters had proper funding.

"Pacific governments all too often cut back resources for national broadcasters while insisting on better standards.

"They also use advertising cut backs to try and control what is said in private media."

This lack of consistency helped create the very instability that governments complain of, says Miller.

She says governments could help achieve consistency through building the independence of news media, including through editorial charters.

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