Freedom of the Press 2012 - Solomon Islands

2012 Scores

Press Status: Free
Press Freedom Score: 28
Legal Environment: 6
Political Environment: 11
Economic Environment: 11

Article 12 of the Solomon Islands' constitution guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of information, and the government generally respects these rights. However, defamation is a criminal offense, and authorities have filed charges or civil suits against the press. In September 2011, the Island Sun newspaper was threatened with a SI$75,000 (US$10,000) compensation demand by supporters of Parliament member Namson Tram, following a front-page report about Tram's alleged purchase and private registration of his government vehicle. The Media Association of the Solomon Islands (MASI), one of the Pacific's most active media advocacy groups, denounced the demand. The Island Sun had been shaken in 2010 by a court order to pay SI$116,000 in damages and legal costs for defamation of a former prime minister and state secretary.

While the political and news media environment was fairly stable and diverse in 2011, pressure from politicians trying to limit public debate is still a problem, especially for some fledgling news outlets that are attempting to contribute to a plurality of voices. Journalists generally are able to cover the news freely without harassment. Attacks against journalists are rare, though in March 2011 the vehicle of a senior journalist and founding owner of One Television News was torched.

The Solomon Star daily dominates the print sector, but there are a number of weekly papers. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation operates the national public station Radio Happy Isles as well as WanTok FM and the provincial stations Radio Happy Lagoon and Radio Temotu. Paoa FM radio leads the commercial radio sector. One Television, a relatively recent addition to the media landscape, has proven to be an innovative broadcaster, adding a competitive and challenging edge to the industry. Due to low literacy levels, broadcast media reach a much broader swathe of the population than print outlets.

There are no restrictions on internet access, but high costs and a lack of infrastructure limited internet penetration to 6 percent of the population in 2011.

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