20 Feb 2012

Media advocates slam Palau government over gag on Attorney General

4:28 pm on 20 February 2012

Advocates of media freedom in Palau have called on the President to justify an executive order they say is a gag on the Attorney General.

President Johnson Toribiong's order, which came into force on January the 27th requires the Attorney General, Ernestine Rengill, to seek permission before issuing any legal opinions to the public.

The Pacific co-ordinator for the International Federation of Journalists, Lisa Williams-Lahari, says under the new rules any questions by the public to the Attorney General must now be vetted by the President's Office.

She says this amounts to a gag.

"An order that stops a very large sector of society from accessing their attorney general, their access to that expert on questions of law has been closed to them, that can be called a gag. I mean it's not freedom of access to suddenly have the door closed on you to be told that the only people that the Attorney General can now provide a legal opinion to is the President and his executives."

Media advocate Lisa Williams-Lahari.

The President's Office says there is nothing in the Executive Order that bans the Attorney General from releasing any public information to anyone and denies it is a gag order.