Tuesday, March 15, 2011

[pima.nius] Palau responds to PFF statement

1:21 PM |

Colleagues, please find attached statement from the Office of the
President, Palau, in response to the PFF statement on

With thanks to Fermin for his considered response and clarification of
the issues. It's good to be welcomed into a country to learn more on
its support of media freedom, and we look forward to one day being
able to host a Micronesia media freedom summit in Palau towards
highlighting best practice in the North Pacific!


Pacific Freedom Forum out of line

I resent your implication that the administration of President Johnson
Toribiong or the government of Palau had a hand in the termination of
a foreign reporter and the closure of the newspaper she worked for.
And as a result, the country has suffered irreparable harm in its
media freedoms.
By making this assumption without corroborating the facts, the Pacific
Freedom Forum, which you claim is a watchdog for media liberty in the
region, is guilty of one of the most basic tenets of journalism - you
didn't verify the information before you concluded that Palau
suppresses media freedoms. A thorough check reveals no record of your
organization ever contacting any one in Palau (except perhaps Ms.
Carreon) before you launched your smear campaign against Palau and her
people. This is unacceptable journalism, and you, of all people,
should know that.
Had you bothered to interview Mr. Abed Younis, the publisher of the
now defunct Palau Horizon, he would have informed you that Ms.
Carreon's termination was due to insubordination. She arrogantly and
willfully ignored Mr. Younis's advice and left Palau to attend a
meeting in Japan, knowing full well her job would be in jeopardy.
Similarly, Palau Horizon's demise was solely due to economic reasons.
At the time there were three newspapers operating in Palau, a
community of about 20,000 people. There simply isn't a large enough
advertising market to support three publications. Someone had to go,
and unfortunately it was the Palau Horizon.
For your information, at the time of Horizon's closure, President
Toribiong publicly lamented the loss, as he believes that a strong,
free and independent media sector is vital to a vibrant democratic
government. President Toribiong holds regular press conferences and
even calls reporters in person to answer their questions or to
disseminate information to the public.
Palau has perhaps the most media friendly constitution on the planet.
Article IV, Section II on Fundamental Rights reads: "The government
shall take no action to deny or impair the freedom of expression of
the press. No bona fide reporter may be required by the government to
divulge or be jailed for refusal to divulge information obtained in
the course of a professional investigation." As far as I know, no
other constitution in the world protects journalists and media
freedoms to the same extent.
According to Freedom House, which has monitored press freedoms around
the world for 70 years, Palau ranks 13th internationally and 1st among
Pacific island countries in terms of media friendly governments. By
comparison, the US is 21st, RMI 26th, FSM 33rd, PNG 70th, Samoa 71st,
Solomon Islands 72nd, and Fiji 85th.
 In "Palau newspaper closedown highlights media freedom concerns",
your assessment is contradictory, conceding that Ms. Carreon had
practiced journalism in Palau unmolested for 10 years but concluding
that somehow her firing was instigated by the government. The other
media outlets here also covered the same two stories you cited as the
basis for your negative rating of Palau's media freedoms. And they are
still here, free to cover and report stories without any interference
from the government.
Ms. Carreon remains in Palau, although by law she is a deportable
alien. Because she was terminated before the closure of Palau Horizon
she should have immediately returned to the Philippines. On the other
hand, had she remained employed with the paper at the time of its
shutdown, she would have been eligible for a transfer to another
company. But she is still here; free to fight for her rights without
fear of threats or intimidation. She has admitted that herself in a
subsequent story.
I invite you to come to Palau so you can see for yourselves the
situation on the ground. And I urge you to retract your accusation and
offer an apology for the wrong you have committed against the people
of Palau. Part of being a legitimate and credible monitoring body is
to be balanced and unbiased. By not presenting the other side of the
story you have failed miserably in that regard.
Thank your for allowing me to clarify this apparent smear tactic
against the government and people of Palau.
Fermin Meriang
Press Secretary
Office of the President
Republic of Palau

Lisa Williams-Lahari
Media Freelancer
Regional Coordinator, IFJ Pacific Media for Democracy and Human Rights Project
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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