Threats to Independent Journalism and Media Jobs in Palau


The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its partner the Pacific

Freedom Forum (PFF), in expressing concern that independent journalism, and the

jobs of local journalists, may be threatened by a proposed telecommunications

bill before the Palau Senate.


According to the PFF, Palau’s

Senate Bill 8-231 is aimed at

updating licensing regulations for broadcasters, but includes a clause banning

foreign ownership of media companies in the country.


This clause would effectively shut down major news outlet Oceania Television

Network (OTN), which is majority-owned by US citizens Jeff Barabe and Kassi

Berg, in partnership with Palauan partners, Jill Senior and Micheal Gordon. OTN

employs a number of Palauan nationals across its news, production and administration

teams, whose jobs are threatened by the draft bill’s ban on foreign ownership

of media. .


PFF reports also suggest that Barabe and OTV staff were actively

excluded from a public hearing on the draft Bill in the Palau Senate on March



When Barabe arrived at the hearing, in response to an ambiguous

invitation from a Senate staffer, the hearing Chair Senator Kathy Kesolei

called a recess, resulting in the cameras recording the hearings being turned



During the off-camera discussion with Barabe, Kesolei reportedly told

the OTV owner he could not make a submission because he did not have a license.

After explaining that he in fact had two broadcast licenses, Kesolei apparently

said that he could submit at a later date. However, when Barabe asked for that

date, Kesolei said that there might not be another hearing on the bill.


“The IFJ shares the PFF’s concerns that the proposed bill could limit

the diversity of media sources in Palau, undermining Palau's constitutional

guarantees of freedom of expression and speech,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Office said.


“We are also concerned for the many local journalists who would lose

their livelihoods as a direct result of this bill”


The IFJ urges the Government of Palau to initiate a series of

transparent and inclusive public hearings on the proposed law change, to ensure

that the interests of press freedom and the public good are served by any

amendments to the existing broadcasting regulations.


Similar attempts to ban foreign ownership of media in Palau were made in

2009, when a similar provision was included in a draft Senate Bill introduced

by broadcast owner and Senator Alfonso Diaz. The bill was subsequently dropped

amid legal challenges which resulted in a criminal complaint filed by the

Special Prosecutor against Senator Diaz for anti-competitive and unfair

business practices.



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