Tuvalu News

New PM vows to lift restrictions on media freedom

Pacific Beat, Radio Australia

Apisai Ielemia
Photo (c)2006 Silafaga Lalua

Tuvalu's new prime minister has vowed to lift what he says have been restrictions on press freedom in the country.

Apisai Ielemia has accused the previous government of gagging the media, especially the government-run Radio Tuvalu.

He says people in Tuvalu's outer islands have been complaining that they aren't told what decisions are being made in the capital, Funafuti.

Mr Ielemia, a former civil servant, has just taken over as prime minister after an election which saw almost all ministers in the previous government thrown out of Parliament. He says there will be some immediate changes in government transparency.

Mr. Ielemia spoke with ABC's Bruce Hill. Here is the transcript:



IELEMIA: We're all new faces, we haven't been in government before and we have common aims, common goals to change things from what they've been before.

HILL: What was wrong with the way things were before?

IELEMIA: Well a lot of things have been restricted by the Solomon government, so we don't like those half-democracy type of system to be exercised in our tiny islands.

HILL: So what kind of restrictions are you going to lift specifically?

IELEMIA: Well at the moment they've been trying to control the media and they've not been able to be as transparent as the people want it to be, and they have not been accountable to the people and to the parliament. And those are the things that we want to show to the people that we came into government just to change things for their benefit.

HILL: Will there be any specific restrictions that your government will move to lift?

IELEMIA: Yes of course some of them are media, they've been gagging the media from broadcasting the writings, correct and up to date news on what their government had been doing and for the people as you know in our country the islands, there are eight, nine islands in our group and the people they live on these nine skirted islands and they want to know the news from the main island or where the administrative centre is situated. So they want to know the news over the radio and that's where we want the Radio Tuvalu to have the freedom and the newspaper, the national newspaper to send out the news, correct and up to date news on all things, on any type of news, political or whatever.

HILL: You said that Tuvalu is eight small islands; there's been quite a concentration of power in Funafuti on the main island. Is your government looking to try and change the balance of power and try and get people on the outer islands more involved in decision making?

IELEMIA: What I have in mind is we have to really contact and make contact with them, communicate, especially on the issues that need their comment and their advice as to whatever from the people.

HILL: Were people living in the outer islands feeling a little bit cut off from events in Funafuti previously?

IELEMIA: Well yes, most of the time they've been cut off on telephones and radio. The national radio has been on and off most of the time throughout, and that's one thing we want to improve. We want to work on establishing an AM channel for Radio Tuvalu so that it can reach the whole nation, especially the people in the outer islands. And at the moment Radio Tuvalu is in FM, and it's an on and off kind of situation. The people are complaining, they've been complaining.


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