Vanuatu’s proposed media law ‘unnecessary control’

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the Media Asosiesen Blong Vanuatu (MAV) in strongly criticizing the new proposed media laws by Vanuatu’s Government. The IFJ and MAV urge the government to reconsider the proposal and create an open dialogue with the media to discuss any changes.

On July 1, Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman said that he was looking to introduce new laws to regulate the media. According to reports, during a meeting with the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation’s general manager, Fred Vurobaravu, Prime Minister Kilman said the new Media Regulation Bill would go before the next session of the Parliament. The bill, currently in a draft form, covers issues such a cross-media ownership and procedures to discipline a media organization.

According to reports, Prime Minister Kilman told VBTC that as Vanuatu is a small community, the media was able to easily destabilize the social peace and order, and thus should take a role in maintaining stability. Building on his comments to VBTC, on July 3 the Primes Minister’s Office released a statement that said: “irresponsible reporting and character assassination by journalists and social media respectively, is developing into a norm.” The statement went on to say that the government will not “hesitate to support responsible legislations to control the media.”

MAV said in a statement regarding the proposed media law that: “The new Sato Kilman led Government is proposing new media laws to control what it calls unbalanced and unfair reporting in both the mainstream and social media. MAV says there are already legal avenues to deal with any issues and that setting up a media disciplinary council would be preferable to a government controlled regulatory body.

The IFJ said: “The development and use of media laws to control the press is a worrying tactic that if legislated will have a devastating impact on Vanuatu’s press freedom. As noted by MAV, measures to deal with press issues already exist in Vanuatu, so these new laws are an attempt to take control of the media and silence critics.”

The IFJ and MAV call on the government to ensure the proposed media law in released to the public in a timely manner and allow proper consultation and dialogue before it is put to parliament in the coming weeks.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 134 countries

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