PORT VILA (Vanuatu Daily Post/Radio New Zealand International/Pacific Media Watch): Vanuatu's Opposition says Prime Minister Sato Kilman should focus on political reform as initiated by the former government and not threaten to introduce new legislation to control media and people from expressing their views.
Media and the public in Port Vila have been under fire from government for airing strongly worded public views on talkback radio and on social media in recent weeks.
This has led to the new government's decision to implement regulatory media legislation.
A statement released by the Opposition on Sunday said that the Prime Minister stated he would bring in a new law to control media and freedom of expression, a statement which has been almost universally condemned by the wider community both nationally and internationally.
The Office of the Prime Minister has not yet responded to the statement by the Opposition in full.
But on the subject of media control and expression, the PM's office emphasized that it is sad for freedom of expression through different mediums to reach this low and it is right for the Prime Minister, as the minister responsible for media to come out with a reminder to the people of their conduct and the responsibilities that come with freedom of expression.
The Opposition says the first thing the Prime Minister needs to do to is to table the Right to Information Bill, so that freedom of expression can be improved, and to also ensure people are better informed so they can make better public comment.
The bill has already been widely consulted on and approved by the Council of Ministers and is ready to table in Parliament.
The Opposition's statement stated, "passing this law will help to ensure that the media can get the right information to make accurate reports on what the Government does and will not have to rely on whistleblowers or entertain hearsay which may lead to misinformation.
“And if the Prime Minister is serious about stopping political instability, then he needs to call the next meeting in the ongoing dialogue on political reform that the Presidents of the 16 political parties in Parliament have been participating in to agree on the changes to the law to promote greater stability and integrity in politics.”
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