Local journalists are being urged to write more investigative stories. as reports of parliamentary corruption exposed. Public buses and taxis drivers went on strike due to the recent drastic hike in taxes
Parliament was dissolved in December 2018 and Solomon Islands will go to the polls on 3rd April 2019. In November 2018, ten corruption cases involving members of parliament were investigated by the police and arrests followed shortly. MP Dickson Mua was arrested and charged for misusing a shipping grant, while MP and forestry minister Samuel Manetoali was arrested and charged with allegedly misusing USD 12,480 that was meant for developments in his constituency, on a private Christmas party instead.
On 27th November 2018 it was reported that local journalists attending a week-long training on Anti-Corruption Reporting, Promotion of Integrity, Transparency and Accountability in the capital, Honiara, were being urged to write more investigative stories. .
Vice President of the Media Association Solomon Islands (MASI) and Press Secretary to Prime Minister Douglas Marau reminded journalists of their ‘watchdog’ role. He said:
“Our society today is demanding more investigative stories than ever and yes, as journalist and reporters we have an obligation to provide the truth about people from authority and other entity and cooperation who attempt to keep their often illegal activities secret and to expose them so that they can be held accountable”.
While Marau highlighted the critical role of media in curbing corruption. He also stressed that in order for the media to be strengthened to perform its role effectively, 'journalists must also seriously consider providing necessary protection to journalists who may be under threat or face risks that might endanger their lives in their line of duty'. Towards this end, MASI has begun work with the government and other stakeholders, to introduce a Media Protection Bill to supplement the Anti-Corruption and Whistle Blowers Protection laws and also work towards raising the standard of integrity in the media industry.
On 7th November 2018, public buses and taxis drivers in Honiara went on strike. The decision to strike by the Honiara Public Transport Association was due to the recent drastic hike in taxes for public transport imposed by the Ministry of Finance’s Revenue Division.
Taxis have been hit with a SD 7000 (USD 898) tax increase while buses are facing a tax of SD 10,000 (USD 1,284) per year. The Honiara Public Transport Association’s Interim Chair Henry Wale said, the increase caused widespread anger and frustration among the transport owners. Two hundred transport owners met on 7th November 2018 and urged the government to immediately remove the tax increase. If they refused to the drivers would increase the fares on taxis and the buses.
Services were resumed the following day after the Inland Revenue Division agreed to reduce the taxes to SD 3,900 (USD 500) per year for buses and SD1,500 (USD 192) per year for taxis.
Several laws govern the formation and functioning of civil society organisations in Solomon Islands, most notably the Charitable Trust Act.
Several laws govern the formation and functioning of civil society organisations in Solomon Islands, most notably the Charitable Trust Act. As such, the registration process is not centralised under a single statute. Under the Charitable Trust Act, the registration process is easy and inexpensive and the government does not have discretionary powers to deregister an organisation. Activists and human rights defenders are able to operate in the country without interference from the government or other non-state actors.
People in Solomon Islands are free to organise and gather, and they generally do so to express discontent for several issues including inequality and government corruption.
People in Solomon Islands are free to organise and gather, and they generally do so to express discontent for several issues including inequality and government corruption. The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly. According to the Procession and Public Assemblies Act, organisers of demonstrations and gatherings must obtain a permit at least 48 hours in advance. Although cases of police using excessive force have not been recorded recently, acts of intimidation still occur. For example, during a gathering by the Solidarity Movement for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua at the Honiara airport, civil society reported instances where the police started following the protestors.
Freedom of expression is generally respected and constitutionally guaranteed.
Freedom of expression is generally respected and constitutionally guaranteed. In general, private media can operate in the country without harassment, and physical attacks against journalists are rare. However, in a 2015 survey of journalists, 63% of participants felt restricted when reporting on sensitive topics. Defamation remains a criminal offense. Although use of the internet seems to be unrestricted, accessibility by the population remains low. There is no law providing for access to public information.