Informing The People – Download Your Newsletter Issue 1 2017

FROM 2015 TO THE END OF 2016 Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) was heavily involved in the Right To Information (RTI) Bill nationwide community consultation.

Working in partnership with the Governments Right To Information Unit and the Media Association of Vanuatu the consultation process on the Right To Information Bill reached over 15,000 people throughout the 15 main islands of Vanuatu and including some of the smaller islands with 400 to 1,000 people.

The consultation process did not only visit the main centers on the islands but ventured further into villages that have never been part of any consultation process.

A lot of people raised concerns that the current laws in Vanuatu that directly affect people at the grassroots level could put a lot of confused people in prison, because by not being part of the consultation process and with no opportunity to learn and educate themselves of the laws that govern Vanuatu we are creating a vulnerable generation that will have to learn from mistakes rather than be informed to avoid mistakes.

The Right To Information Bill was unanimously passed by Parliament in November of 2016, and it officially became the Right To Information Law on the 6th of February 2017. Regarded as the ‘Peoples Law’ it is important out to reach out to the people who had been part of the consultation process, and to inform them of the becoming of the Right To Information Law and how it will be implemented.

It is also important to inform other people that had not been part of the consultation process because they also have the right to know.

So from the 15th to the 17th of March 2017 a TIV Team conducted and distributed RTI Law information throughout the island of Tongoa. And on the same month from the 19th to the 25th the same program was conducted around the island of Tanna.

This newsletter highlights the activities that were carried on these two islands including photos and links.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW AND DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF THE NEWSLETTER.

TONGOA & TANNA REPORT

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TIV Congratulates New MAV Executive

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU (TIV) congratulates the new Executive Members of the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) who were elected yesterday at the Vanuatu Broadcasting & Television Corporation headquarter in Port Vila.

TIV has a well-established working relationship with MAV that has grown stronger over the years. The highlights of this partnership are many, but the most significant one was the nation-wide community consultation and the lobbying of the Right To Information (RTI) Bill.

The RTI Bill was unanimously passed by the Parliament of Vanuatu in 2016.

TIV looks forward to continuing this relationship with the new MAV leaders.

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left to right: (top) Vice Secretary Heather Maraki from FM 107, Executive Member Witnol Benko from Nak Media, Executive Member Christopher Crowby from VBTC, Executive Member Moses Cakau from VBTC, (bottom) Jonas Cullwick from Daily Post, Vice President Kevin Valea from Transparency International Vanuatu, President Evelyn Toa from The Independent Newspaper, Secretary Harold Obed Manage of the Right To Information Unit, Vice Treasurer Loic Teilemb from the VBTC. 

 

Transparency International Vanuatu Congratulates the Vanuatu Daily Post On 5,000th Issue

When the Vanuatu Daily Post (VDP) published its first ever newspaper issue two decades ago it was hard to imagine that it would take over 23 years to reach its 5,000th Issue, but it has happened, and thank you to the Daily Post Transparencdpy International Vanuatu (TIV) was able to publish hundreds of corruption related articles since 2007.

“Shepherd Outer Islands demand MPs to be more accountable to their people” was the first ever article written by TIV and published by the Daily Post on September 15th 2006 – Issue 1826. This means that last year 2016 marked 10 years of a working collaboration between TIV and the Daily Post that saw over 960 articles on corruption issues supplied by TIV.

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First article by TIV in 2006.

Transparency International Vanuatu congratulates the management and the staff of the Vanuatu Daily Post for their milestone achievement today. Despite all the physical, emotional, and political challenges the Daily Post has continued to inform the populace of what is happening around us.

Today’s 5000th Issue achievement is a testament that reaffirms the value of the right to express personal opinions and it promises the longevity of media freedom in Vanuatu.

Congratulations and all the best in the years to come!

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Wider Radio Coverage Is The Peoples Interest

Picture this; in a rural community somewhere in Vanuatu an elder walks to a small home-store and buys two new batteries for his small Panasonic red radio. Back at home he places the batteries into the battery slots, and then at the end of the radio antenna he ties the end of a copper wire, the copper wire is then firmly tightened around a long bamboo pole nailed onto the side of a mango tree by his son.

The other end of the wire is then expanded as an extension of the radio antenna from the bamboo pole, it reaches high into the air trying to capture every bit of radio transmission.

He turns on his faithful old radio that has been informing him for the past several years, and begins to tune in to the national radio station. But he is not the only one tuning in, across the country hundreds, or if not thousands of radios, are turned on and are tuning into the same station.

They are all listening to another Ordinary Session of the Vanuatu Parliament, because in a democratic state like Vanuatu everyone has the right to be informed of the laws that are being discussed in parliament. Listening to an ongoing session of parliament also provides the incentive for voters to check on the participatory efforts of their parliamentary representatives: Are they speaking up? Are they representing our views? Or are they doing otherwise?

The recent blackout from the national broadcasting service did more than deny the people their right to listen to what was being discussed inside the parliament, but it also revealed years of operating under a heavy load of financial burden.

The right to access accurate information is a fundamental interest that is now being promoted more than ever in Vanuatu. And with new communication devices being introduced in the country people are now getting connected more than ever in the history of Vanuatu. It this therefore important that all public assets that are dedicated to disbursing information to must be at their best at this time to ensure that the people know what is happening around them, and why they are happening.

Clearly, years of vying for political positions and power has made it difficult for many public companies to operate without facing some sort of financial or organizational challenge.

With radio there are still a lot of challenges; the main one is of course radio coverage which has, unfortunately, limited range. On some islands it is limited to only certain hours of the day or night.

“I have not listened to the radio for quite a long time now,” explains Tommy, a young man originally from Ureparapara but currently living in Sola on the island of Vanua Lava in Banks group. “The only times for radio to have a good reception is in the afternoon. In the mornings it is impossible to receive radio transmissions.”

“I now go on facebook for information rather than try to listen to the radio, I just have no more time to listen to the radio because there is no access here” expresses another youth from Vanua Lava.

Recent statements from the national broadcasting service explains that soon the whole of Vanuatu will be able to listen to the national radio, this is definitely a great news that will be welcomed by people from all over the country when it happens.

It will be an important development for Vanuatu; likewise it is also important that financial debts be accounted for otherwise we will continue to face an uncertain future.

A team from Transparency International Vanuatu recently visited Big Bay on the island of Santo, the Big Bay area is considered to be among the remotest places in Vanuatu, a return trip from Luganville could cost more than 40,000 vatu. While talking with the people there they expressed their disappointment over the radio’s limited coverage, “we only get connected during certain times, all the other time there is nothing, no coverage,  nothing,” reported a villager from Tsureviu, Big Bay.

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Similar scenarios can be found in other places around Vanuatu, “we only listen to FM Stations here” was the response the TIV team received while touring the north western part of Malekula early this year.

An American television host once said “if you miss the news for a day, then you miss everything,” if there are people in Vanuatu that are missing out on receiving daily information then we could just imagine the worth of information that has been missed by thousands of people over the years.

With time, and with the right management, we must all look forward to become more engaged and effective in the media industry. Transparency International Vanuatu, as an NGO, has been utilizing the media for years and therefore acknowledges the great work that has been accomplished by our multi-tasked media outlets, but there is still a lot of ground yet to cover and there are still a lot of ears out there that needs accurate information to make the right decisions.

The people’s interest must always come first, political interest must not influence the way we think and act when it comes to important mediums like the radio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Media Press Freedom Day In Photos

THE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY activities in Vanuatu took place on Tuesday the 3rd near the Port Vila Market House.

The activities were spearheaded by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) and included speeches by the Prime Minister, Leaders in the Pacific, the Vanuatu media industry including Government leaders.

There were booths that were set up by different media outlets and organisations to give out information on what they do.

The theme for that day was – Right To Information Saves Lives. The event saw a Media Freedom Parade through town before speeches were given at the Seafront by the Prime Minister, the President of Media Association of Vanuatu including other heads of media companies in Vanuatu.

Enjoy the photos!

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Brief Observation Of The Snap Election

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU published this morning a brief observation report on the Vanuatu 2016 Snap Election.

WHAT IS INSIDE THE REPORT?

There are four parts in this brief observation report:

  1. Allegations of corruption.
  2. Comparison of Candidate numbers by Provinces.
  3. Discrepancies in valid voter numbers.
  4. Recommendations.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE REPORT.

 

 

The Challenges To Media Freedom In Vanuatu

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THIRTY FIVE LONG YEARS years since gaining independence, the freedom that is legally required by the media and the general public to access information that is of public interest, is still limited.

According to the 2014 Vanuatu National Integrity System (NIS) that was published by Transparency International Vanuatu, “there is no freedom of information law. The law does not promote freedom through measures such as freedom of information, although reforms are currently in place”.

“Whilst Freedom of Expression is enshrined in the Constitution, there are no specific laws protecting media freedom or editorial independence.  There are no laws allowing access to information.”

As a matter of fact, the Official Secrets Act permits the government to restrict access to a wide variety of materials.

The Right to Information Bill was listed to be debated in the parliament in November 2014, but it was later withdrawn by the attorney general for further corrections before it was discussed. Until today, the bill is still being reviewed.   Consequently, the media’s right to access information is still legally limited by law.

Apart from laws that constitute media freedom, history shows a list of different forms of retaliations that were taken by unhappy individuals and leaders towards media companies and personals.

Since 2009 there has been a consistent record of attacks and threats to media people and companies from the members of parliament, ministers and the government.

It has been observed that more subtle intimidation also occurs at times.

Reactions to Media Regulations

Last week Prime Minster Sato Kilman, who is also responsible for the media, raised concerns through the Broadcast Regulator Fred Vurobaravo, that if “Talk Back Shows on radio and exchange forums on Facebooks are not controlled to defame leaders, he will not hesitate this time to take stronger actions to as far as use all means to close down operations of the radio and social media”.

The Prime Minister “strongly emphasized that the new Media Regulation law must be brought in for ratification in the next session of Parliament”, and that the new law which is in a draft format will be presented to the Council of Ministers for approval after consultations. The letter by the Broadcast Regulator specifically identified that broadcasters, newspapers and the social media will be regulated under this new law.

The letter was addressed to Radio Vanuatu, FM 107, FM 96, Yumi Toktok Stret, the Daily Post, Independent Newspapers, Vila Times and Vanuatu Times.

The caution from the Prime Minister’s office raised a lot of comments and discussions, both local and af-radio-antenna-w-moon-21regionally.

The Daily Post Publisher Marc Neil-Jones reacted with these words, “I’ve dealt with every prime minister since independence and this is the first time anyone has attempted to control independent media through legislation. If that were to happen, the negative publicity for Vanuatu would be catastrophic.”

Furthermore, hundreds of comments have been raised on social media regarding this case. The statement by the Prime Minister came out with a lot of rejections, however some accepted the fact that the media does need to be monitored and used responsibly.

Censorship is not expressly stated to be illegal. Apart from print media, the minister has the discretion to vary conditions and can suspend or revoke broadcasting licenses. In other words, licensing laws effectively allows the government to control the content of broadcasters.

Limited Protection for the Media and Advocators

A recent report on media freedom in the Pacific observed that, in Vanuatu ‘blatant intimidation [of journalists] continues with near impunity’.

In other words, media personals and people advocating through the media become physically vulnerable when reporting on very sensitive issues, some have been attacked and threatened yet justice has failed to serve both parties concerned.

The last few years Vanuatu has witnessed several incidents in the media industry. In 2014, a print journalist was arrested by the Police for ‘threatening’ the government on social media. In 2011, the Daily Post Publisher was assaulted by an MP, and again in 2009, he was severely assaulted by police on press charges of issues within the correctional service. Only one of these unlawful actions has been prosecuted with a VT15, 000 fine.

The list goes on further, from angry phone calls to angry visitations.

Even Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) has earned the badge for hitting the mark, TIV reported four incidents of threats against the staff from 2012 to 2013.

Media Self-Regulatory System for Vanuatu

Can a media self-regulatory system for Vanuatu be the solution to advocating for responsible, accurate, respectful, and factual reporting?

Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) understands that there has been discussions, and consultations last year by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) in establishing a self-regulatory mechanism for the media industry.

TIV believes that a self-regulatory mechanism that allows media to self-regulate itself is way forward to improving the standard of media reporting in Vanuatu. A media regulation law by the government could infringe on the freedom of information, and as can be ‘catastrophic’ as stated by the publisher of the Daily Post.

Media in Vanuatu must be independent to be able to provide constructive criticism. Communication technology in Vanuatu is rising rapidly, therefore access to online discussion forums and mainstream news sites will continue to grow.

Having a mechanism that can allow for an independent platform to exist is crucial for any democracy. It provides a platform for public discussions where anyone can participate and be part of decision. And more importantly, it is a resourceful information hub for decision makers.

Media Association of Vanuatu Press Release

In a press statement released yesterday by the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV), it says that MAV welcomes Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s call for the media and that civil society’s’ should exercise more responsibility through traditional media, and social media. But at the same time MAV is concerned over the government’s direction towards media and the rights of civilians.

In the statement MAV suggests that…

“the prime minister and his office staff familiarize themselves with the National Media Policy, the National ICT policy and the National FOI policy already in place”.

The MAV statement further emphasized that “because we believe in the Melanesian way of dialogue, we ask the responsible authority to allocate time to meet with MAV’s executive and be briefed on the progress towards the setting up of Vanuatu Media Council that will hopefully deal with complaints raised against the media”.

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