25 Aug 2004

Vanuatu government interferes with radio news broadcasts

1:23 pm on 25 August 2004

The Vanuatu government says it has told state media to delay running stories from the opposition that might create instability.

But its spokesman Kal Moli denies that they are censoring the news.

The opposition leader, Sato Kilman, says Radio Vanuatu has been stopped from carrying his comments on such issues as tomorrow's planned vote of no confidence.

Mr Moli says the government earlier this month sacked the Board of the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation for incompetence and brought the organisation directly under Prime Minister Serge Vohor's control.

He says Radio Vanuatu was told not to run baseless stories on any vote of no confidence.

"We have ordered them to delay running them because they were not responsible. I mean, before that, we had people in this office who were not media literate. But having been there I know when the news is not responsible and it's not balanced with regards to getting a side story. So we had to go back, I mean we cannot suggest there is a motion when there is no motion which is in Parliament."

Mr Moli says the vote won't happen tomorrow because the deputy prime minister, Ham Lini, who moved the motion at the beginning of August when he was the opposition leader, will withdraw it.

The Vanuatu Media Association spokesman, Kiery Manassah, says it would be a concern if the Prime Minister's Office was directly involved in the editorial decisions of the VBTC.

We do hope that the Government will act swiftly to appoint a new board and allow the Corporation to run its own affairs an allow journalists to get on with their jobs without any fear or favour.