Freedom of the Press 2011 - Solomon Islands
|Publication Date||17 October 2011|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2011 - Solomon Islands, 17 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e9bec2a28.html [accessed 12 December 2013]|
Legal Environment: 6
Political Environment: 12
Economic Environment: 11
Total Score: 29
Article 12 of the Solomon Islands' constitution guarantees freedom of expression and information, and the government generally respects these rights. Defamation is a criminal offense and is used against the press by authorities. The Island Sun newspaper, which has contributed to a livelier media, faced a crippling legal bill for defamation of a former prime minister and state secretary. In a case that dragged on for almost three years, a High Court judge awarded a total of SI$116,000 (US$15,600) in damages and legal costs against the newspaper. Editor Priestley Habru vowed to pay the penalty and to carry on publishing. The newspaper had been sued by former prime minister David Derek Sikua and his secretary Jerry Manele over a 2008 news article, cartoon, and editorial about an alleged drunken escapade.
While the political and news media landscape has been fairly stable over the past year, particularly in comparison with earlier in the decade – and there is greater diversity – pressure from politicians trying to limit public debate is still a problem. This has been a major issue for some fledgling news media outlets that are attempting to contribute to a plurality of voices. Journalists generally are able to cover the news freely without harassment. There were no reports of attacks against journalists during the year.
The long-established Solomon Star daily newspaper dominates the local print publishing industry ahead of three weeklies, the Sun, Solomons Voice, and Solomon Times. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation operates the national public station Radio Hapi Isles as well as Wantok FM and the provincial stations Radio Hapi Lagun and Radio Temotu. Paoa FM radio leads the commercial sector. A more recent arrival has been Television One, an innovative broadcaster that has provided a competitive and challenging edge to the media industry. There are no restrictions to internet access, but high costs and a lack of infrastructure limited internet penetration to 5 percent of the population in 2010.