Tuesday, January 25, 2011

[pima.nius] More public talking needed on Tuvalu's Public Order ban: PFF statement

9:43 AM |

via Freedom Forum

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25 January 2011, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS -- An historic 14-day ban on
large public meetings or gatherings ending this week in Funafuti must
put Tuvalu's leadership on notice that freedom of assembly and
expression are key to democratic rule, says the Pacific Freedom Forum,

The regional media freedom monitoring network says Tuvalu's first-ever
invocation of its Public Order Ordinance on January 13 banning public
gatherings or meetings on the capital island of Funafuti will have
trickle down impacts on free speech and free expression in the small
island nation.

The 1973 ordinance has never been used -- til now. It was applied in
the wake of a public protest march demanding the resignation from
government of  the Finance Minister Lotoala Metia on January 13. It's
been reported such a move would topple the government's one-seat
majority in Tuvalu's Parliament and allow Opposition MP Enele Sopoaga
to take up the leadership. Metia and Sopoaga live in Funafuti, as MP's
for the outlying island constituency of Nukufetau. Sopoaga, responding
to the refusal by the Senior Magistrates Court in Tuvalu to rule on an
application from the protestors on the Public Order, says the ban
amounts to a gagging of the people of Tuvalu by the government.

"Governance and governments benefit when people have access to
information from a free and independant media, and can freely share
their opinions in private or public. Issuing a ban in a small place
like Tuvalu may  villainise those who chose to be part of the protest
and warn off others who would want to stand up for their causes in
future. Thus, a situation like this would actually need more and not
less dialogue and debate around the issue," says PFF chair Susuve

"We are glad to hear that colleagues at Radio Tuvalu feel they able to
report freely at this time and encourage the government to support
editorial independance of the media," he says.

The Tuvalu Media Corporation is the only mainstream media organisation
in the country, and is owned and controlled by the government.
National broadcaster Radio Tuvalu falls under the Ministry of
Information  -- whose Minister is the current PM.

"It's important for governments across the region to apply the
governance and human rights principles of the Pacific Plan they
themselves endorsed in 2005," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller.

"Tuvalu, like many Pacific nations where the state controls the main
media outlets, should also look to its own Constitution guaranteeing
freedom of assembly and freedom of expression to guide what happens
after the ban ends. It's clear that more Tuvaluans need to feel heard
by their leaders and provide input in ways that both voters and their
elected leadership are happy with."--ENDS

 CONTACT: PFF interim Chair Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle
Newspaper | Papua New Guinea Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office:
675-321-7040 | Email: susuve.laumaea@interoil.com PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office
684 633-7793 | Email: monica@khjradio.com

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of
Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising
awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom
of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We
believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the
vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our
leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments
to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is
monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to
the attention of the wider regional and international community.

Lisa Williams-Lahari
Media Freelancer
Regional Coordinator, IFJ Pacific Media for Democracy and Human Rights
Ph Mob: (64) 0210642704
Skype: lisalahari

* "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that
matter."-- Martin Luther King Jr.  *

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