Freedom of the Press

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Freedom of the Press 2013

2013 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

28

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

11

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

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 in the past filed or threatened charges or civil suits against the press. In 2011, the Island Sun newspaper was threatened with a SI$75,000 (US$10,000) compensation demand by supporters of legislator Namson Tram, following a front-page report about Tram’s alleged purchase and private registration of his government vehicle. No defamation cases against journalists were reported in 2012. There is currently no freedom of information law in the Solomon Islands. In an unfortunate rebuff to access to government officials, former parliamentarian and cabinet minister Jimmy Lusibaea banned his wife Vika, who was successfully elected for the North Malaita seat in August 2012 and who became the only woman in the National Parliament, from speaking to the foreign news media.

While the political and news media environment remained fairly stable and diverse, 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. Due to the country’s volatile history, some journalists are prone to self-censorship. However, as the country has recovered from the 1998–2003 ethnic conflict, journalists have generally been able to cover the news more freely, without harassment. In 2008, the multinational assistance mission to the country launched the Solomon Islands Media Strengthening Scheme, which continues to train journalists and give them technical support. Attacks against media workers are rare, and none were reported in 2012.

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 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 7 percent of the population in 2012.