Wednesday, July 6, 2011

[pima.nius] Justice denied in Vanuatu publisher assault: PFF

11:16 AM |

via PFF


PFF, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS- A minimal fine given to a Vanuatu
cabinet minister who entered a guilty plea for his part in the bashing
of Daily Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones represents a clear victory for
bush justice over the rule of law, says regional media monitoring
group the  Pacific Freedom Forum.

Government minister Harry Iauko was fined the local equivalent of
150USD late last week after he entered guilty pleas to aiding and
abetting the March 4 assault on Neil-Jones at the Daily Post premises.
Under Vanuatu law, the applicable sentence for an assault where no
permanent damage is caused to the victim is a fine or prison term of
no less than 12 months. Seven other men sentenced along with Iauko
received fines of up to 1,000 USD for their roles in the group attack.

"PFF joins those in Vanuatu and globally who condemn the clear message
from this sentence -- that it's OK for high level leaders of Vanuatu
to lead  mobs into newsrooms and bash up people whose job is to keep
the public informed -- and that justice can be turned on its head to
keep the powerful in power."

"After months of uncertainty and concerns over an interference with
due process, the Vanuatu justice system has delivered a verdict which
shows that Neil Jones and media colleagues had every right to be
worried that justice would not be served," says Miller, "and we are
very concerned over comments by the Deputy Prime Minister Ham Lini to
a New Zealand journalist noting he felt media had 'exaggerated' the
case which wasn't serious as no-one had died. Does a journalist have
to die before media freedom and the conduct of leaders is taken
seriously?"

"It's especially disturbing that prosecutors dropped charges of
unlawful assembly, unlawful entry and criminal trespass against the
minister simply because he entered a  not guilty plea. Others in his
group plead guilty to the same charges, so surely this provided clear
grounds for the prosecution case to be heard?"

"Again, we raise the issue of equality before the law. If the reverse
had happened and Minister Iauko had been assaulted by the Daily Post
publisher, it is certain that Neil-Jones would not be dealt a 150USD
fine and have other charges for which his accomplices had already
entered guilty pleas, withdrawn for no compelling reason."

Miller says the matter should not rest. "Vanuatu's Prime Minister
should know that this issue has cost him and his cabinet a huge amount
of credibility. This isn't just about a Vanuatu citizen being denied
justice by his own nation's legal system. This sentence tells
Vanuatu's people and all of us that a rule of law which exists for all
people, can bow down to the rule of thuggery. It's not an attractive
look for any government and we urge the leadership and relevant
leadership tribunal  bodies in Vanuatu to follow through on this case
as PFF intends to bring this matter before the Office of the United
Nations Human Rights Commissioner."--ENDS

LINKS:
Radio NZI coverage--http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=61586



CONTACT: PFF Acting 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
Project
Ph Mobile: 677-7574230
Skype: lisalahari

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

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