Freedom of the Press 2014 - Solomon Islands

2014 Scores

Press Status: Free
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst): 28
Legal Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 6
Political Environment (0 = best, 40 = worst): 11
Economic Environment (0 = best, 30 = worst): 11

The political and news media environment in the Solomon Islands remained fairly stable and diverse in 2013. Article 12 of the constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of information, and the government generally respects these rights. However, defamation is a criminal offense, and authorities have in the past filed or threatened charges or civil suits against the press. There is currently no freedom of information law in the Solomon Islands.

The country hosted a regional Pacific conference in May 2013 that decided to press for the establishment of a regional Pacific Media Ombudsman by mid-2014 with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Delegates resolved that ethics, conduct protocols, and media standards needed strengthening in the Solomon Islands and around the region. A proposed regional media complaints process would be part of the regional plan.

A certain degree of self-censorship occurs in the media, due to the threat of compensation awards for media content deemed offensive. In February 2013, several groups – possibly linked to the wife of Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo – demanded compensation from the daily Solomon Star offices in Honiara, the capital, after the publication released a headline article regarding the extramarital affairs of the prime minister. Censorship is rare, but concerns over content on the internet, particularly social media, triggered debates in 2013. In March, the Chinese Solomon Islands Association declared its concern about a rise of anti-Chinese sentiment, especially racist comments, being posted on social media. In May, Lilo reacted angrily to the unauthorized release on the internet of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report into the civil unrest of 1997-2003. The document was released by its editor, former Anglican Bishop of Malaita Terry Brown, who said the report had been handed over to the government some 14 months earlier.

Physical attacks and harassment of journalists occurs infrequently, and no cases were reported in 2013.

The Solomon Star dominates the print sector, but there are a number of weekly papers. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) operates the national public station Radio Happy Isles as well as Wantok FM and the provincial stations Radio Happy Lagoon and Radio Temotu. A private station, Gold Ridge FM, is owned by a mining company of that name. 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. There are also digital pay television stations operated by the government and a satellite channel run by a church. 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 8 percent of the population in 2013.

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