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Pacific media groups urge Cook Islands MPs not to ban journalist for reports on travel allowances (Demo)

This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum’s Facebook page on 26 June 2020.

The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), representing media organisations both public and private in the Pacific Islands, is concerned about reports that the Parliament of Cook Islands is proposing to ban the Cook Islands News newspaper from covering the current Parliament session.

“We call on the Cook Island Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Niki Rattle, to do the right thing in support of media freedom by refusing to ban the newspaper from the legislature,” said Mr Kora Nou, the President of PINA.

“Media freedom is a core tenant of democracy and it is incumbent on elected public representatives to support – not denounce – the work of journalists in any country,” he added.

Mr Nou, the Managing Director of Papua New Guinea’s national broadcaster NBC, said he would be writing to Honorable Niki Rattle as well as to Prime Minister Honorable Henry Puna and the Cook Islands Leader of the Opposition, Honorable Tina Browne to convey the concerns of the regional media body.

“Also, as the head of the biggest public broadcaster in the region, it gravely concerns me that this reported ban is seen to be promoted by the Cook Islands Parliament,” Mr Nou said.

He said PINA had also sought the support of partner organisations like IFEX, and the Melanesia Media Freedom Forum to lobby the Cook Islands Parliament against the proposed ban.

“PINA has been in constant communication with Cook Islands News and its media members in the island nation and it is our hope that common sense will prevail and that the media will be allowed to continue to do its work so our people continue to be kept abreast of happenings from our elected leaders without the fear of expulsion,” said Mr Nou.

The current motion before the Cook Islands Parliament, moved by the Prime Minister Honorable Henry Puna and seconded by the Deputy Opposition Leader, Honorable Terepai Maoate Jnr reads;

“The Cook Islands News headline and the article on the front page of last Friday, 19th June 2020 which published a report on the proceedings on Thursday 18 June 2020 was incorrect and unfair. And further if the Honourable Speaker is also of the opinion the report was incorrect and unfair, he should order that the media representative that made the report, Rashneel Kumar, be ordered to withdraw from Parliament for a period to be determined by Madam Speaker.”

The Speaker of Parliament is expected to rule on the motion, which was carried without opposition, on Friday 26 June, 2020 (Cook Islands Time).

“What is worrying for PINA is that the motion is being entertained by the Parliament.

“It was moved by the Prime Minister and supported by the Opposition Party. If the Speaker rules in favour of the motion, the Cook Island News and the rest of the media in Cook Islands could be become victims of the ban, preventing the people the right to access to information from Parliament proceedings.

“We are concerned the Parliament motion could set a precedent for other democracies across the Pacific to silence the media from carrying out their role in ensuring governments adhere to the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency,” he said.

Mr Nou hoped good sense will prevail and the Speaker of the House will rule against the motion and allow Cook Islands News and its journalist, Mr Rashneel Kumar, back into the House to cover Parliament sitting.

The post Pacific media groups urge Cook Islands MPs not to ban journalist for reports on travel allowances appeared first on IFEX.


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