IFJ Welcomes UN Statement on Attacks on Media in Vanuatu


The International Federation of Journalists

(IFJ) joins the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in commending a UN Pacific Regional Office

of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) statement voicing “serious

concern” over media rights abuses by a Minister of the Vanuatu



In an opinion piece published

on September 20, OHCHR Pacific Regional Representative Matilda Bogner notes the

importance of a free media in good governance and lists guidelines for leaders

in Vanuatu

to help address the culture of impunity for the harassment of journalists.


Bogner’s comments were made in relation to lenient

sentences being imposed on Vanuatu Government Minister Harry Lauko, and

others, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the March 4 assault on

journalist Marc Neil-Jones at the Daily

Post office in Vanuatu’s

capital city, Port Vila.


The IFJ supports the PFF and other regional media groups’

ongoing campaign against media freedom abuses in Vanuatu, and welcomes Bogner’s

statement as a step towards further action.


“Attacks on journalists are

an attack on press freedom and democracy. Journalists and the media

play an important watchdog role in society, and it is essential that the media

is able to report freely and independently without fear of physical abuse,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director

Jacqueline Park said.


“Authority figures and

members of the public with complaints about media reports must use appropriate

non-violent complaint procedures.”


Under Vanuatu

law the sentence for this kind of assault, where no permanent damage is caused

to the victim, can attract a prison term of up to 12 months. Minister Lauko was

fined VT 5,000 on one charge and VT 10,000 on another (a total of around USD 150)

on June 30.


Other more serious

charges of unlawful

assembly, unlawful entry and criminal trespass were inexplicably dropped

in response to Minister Lauko pleading not guilty. Seven other men sentenced

along with Lauko received fines of up to VT 100,000 for their roles in the

group attack.


The IFJ joins the PFF in their calls for a country or

regional visit by the UN

Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, to investigate threats to press freedom In the Pacific.


The IFJ applauds the UN’s

response to attempts to roll back media freedoms in the Pacific, and welcomes

further statements against states who fail to protect the rights of journalists

to practice their craft without fear for their safety.



          For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919



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