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Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the censoring of the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) as an “assault on press freedom” and an “unacceptable development” amid mounting concern over China’s influence on the media and security.

“The censoring of the Solomon Island’s national broadcaster is an assault on press freedom and an unacceptable development for journalists, the public, and the democratic political process,” the IFJ said in a statement.

“The IFJ calls for the immediate reinstatement of independent broadcasting arrangements in the Solomon Islands.”

The government of the Solomon Islands on August 1 ordered the national radio and television broadcaster SIBC to censor its programmes of anti-government voices.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet Office of the Solomon Islands mandated the SIBC to censor its programmes of perspectives critical of the incumbent government.

According to SIBC staff, the acting chairman of the board, William Parairato, outlined the new guidelines on July 29.

Both news and paid programmes are to be vetted in line with government regulations, as the government attempts to crack down on “disunity”.

SIBC now beholden
Special Secretary to the Prime Minister Albert Kabui indicated that the SIBC would now be beholden to a government-appointed board of directors, who would be appointed solely from the Prime Ministerial office.

The SIBC, which has moved from a state-owned enterprise to receiving all funding from the ruling government, had previously allowed paid programmes to broadcast criticism of the government.

The broadcaster also provided full live coverage of Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong’s visit to Honiara in June, with coverage funded by the Australian High Commission.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavere has been unavailable for comment, as reported by several news organisations.

In recent months the Solomon Islands has further developed existing links to China, which the Australian Broadcaster Corporation argues is indicative of “authoritarian and anti-journalist” developments in Solomon Islands’ leadership.

The IFJ raised concerns surrounding press freedoms in the Solomon Islands during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the Pacific in May.

Wang Yi’s press tour of the Solomon Islands featured heavily restricted press conferences, with local journalists collectively confined to one question for the nation’s Foreign Minister.

Sourced from an IFJ dispatch.

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