PFF, Rarotonga, Cook Islands--Safety concerns are on the rise as regional media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum continues to urge Vanuatu's government to address the assault allegations linking cabinet minister Harry Iauko Iaris to an attack on Daily Post publisher Marc Neil Jones last month.
"It is now almost six weeks since the Daily Post carried its front page coverage of the Ministers role in a group assault on Marc Neil Jones at the newspaper premises in Port Vila; and we've yet to see progress or clarity in ascertaining whether the Minister is being charged, and what he's being charged with," says PFF co-chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.
"The eyes of the region and the world are on Vanuatu and its leadership as the credibility of the judicial process and government continues to be held hostage by the lack of due process in this matter," he says.
"Meanwhile, given the circumstances around the assault and the implications for the government of the day should the Minister face a conviction, we remain concerned for the safety of Mr Neil Jones and
his family, those media colleagues who witnessed the assault; and others involved in the Police investigation," he says.
A Magistrates court sitting on the case scheduled for Thursday 7th April came to nothing and there has been no progress apart from an invitation to Vanuatu media, including the Daily Post, to meet with the Minister this week in a conference organised by his supporters.
"We understand the reluctance of the Daily Post to be involved in that conference given emotions are running high and due legal process has yet to be observed in this matter," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa.
"Had the situation been reversed, with Marc Neil Jones or any other citizen of Vanuatu being linked to an assault on a cabinet Minister, there is little doubt someone would be in jail right now. The fact that we have a national leader who potentially is in breach of his own leadership code as well as the Vanuatu law should be even more reason why the government must rise above its own conflicting interest in this case,"she says.--ENDS
CONTACT: PFF interim Chair Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email: email@example.com PFF interim co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.