Call for solidarity in approach to addressing attacks against media in the Pacific region

Expression

Outcry against media attacks across Pacific region

On 19th February 2018, Vanuatu-based media representatives called for a more unified front to address attacks on freedom of expression and the media in the Pacific.

Recent cases that highlight this concern were namely in Fiji, where three senior journalists were taken in by police for questioning over media coverage of a peaceful protest; Kiribati, where the government confiscated the equipment of New Zealand journalists seeking to report on the tragic sinking of the MV Butiraoi; and Nauru, where the government has imposed prohibitive fees for journalists' visas.

Media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post, Dan McGarry, said that what is most worrying is that there is no regional solidarity to repel such attacks, adding that:

"We need to see solidarity and it generally, or at least in the past, it always started with organisations like the Pacific Islands News Association, here in Vanuatu the Media Association of Vanuatu. And these organisations have been culpably silent on the topic and this is really, really worrying". 
Training on Right to Information law

More than a year after Vanuatu's Right to Information (RTI) Act came into effect, training is underway for government officials and statutory agencies to understand the law and how to implement it.

The training organised with the United Nations Development Programme will cover issues such as the importance of the right to information, the role of an RTI officer, how requests and appeals will be processed and how to interpret exemptions in the law.

Association

Doctor reinstated after threat of legal challenge by union

Basil Leodoro, a senior surgeon at the Northern Provincial Hospital, was reinstated on 9th February 2018. Leodoro had been suspended in October 2017 after questioning the government's use of aid funding meant for evacuees from a volcanic eruption on Ambae in September.

On 31st January 2018, the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU) announced that they that would be taking the Public Service Commission to court on behalf of its member, Basil Leodoro. VNWU's Ephraim Kalsakau, who is also the member for Port Vila, said that:

"...we're glad that the Public Service Commission and the government of Vanuatu has decided to reinstate Dr Basil because during his suspension our northern hospital was without a surgeon, so as far as I'm concerned, I'm glad that he has been reinstated so that he can get back to serving our people up in the north".
Teachers threaten industrial action

On 16th January 2018, the chair of the Teaching Service Commission (TSC) urged teachers and the Vanuatu Teachers Union (VTU) to discuss the issue of delayed payments of new salaries, as determined by the Government Remuneration Tribunal (GRT), instead of taking industrial action. 

Earlier in September 2017, it was reported that the VTU had issued a letter to the TSC, copying the Minister of Education, Jean Pierre Nirua, and stating that the teachers would carry out industrial action if the TSC failed to comply with the notice.

In November 2017, the GRT Board announced new salary scales for all government employees, including teachers, and that the new salaries would be effective on 1st January 2018. However, delays meant that the teachers as well as public servants did not receive their newly-increased salaries.