The Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has clarified that the removal of the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation as a State Owned Enterprise is not censorship, nor is it prior restraint.
This is a direct response to the Opposition Leader’s confused press statement claiming that the move is an attempt to directly control and censor SIBC’s news content.
“Obviously Hon. Wale is confused with the concept of censorship and prior restraint. At no time has the Government exercised powers under section 24 of the Broadcasting Act to prohibit SIBC from broadcasting any material.”
The statement boldly stated, “SIBC is merely removed as an SOE under that Act. Editorial control remains with SIBC.”
The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament, the Broadcasting Act Cap.112.
This is the Act the National broadcaster has been operating under since independence
In 2007 Parliament enacted the State Owned Enterprise Act, and SIBC was added to the Schedule of this Act as a state owned enterprise. In essence, SIBC is state owned and is the national broadcaster.
The Government believes, the SOE Act has restricted and / or limited the control of Government on various bodies created by Statute. It has refocused the initial purposes of these statutory bodies to be profit oriented and not by the need for provision of services to our people. SIBC is an example of such statutory body, others include Solomon Islands Electricity Authority. Solomon Islands Water Authority and Solomon Islands Ports Authority etc.
SIBC as a government service provider depends on the Solomon Islands Government for funding its operations.
As a national broadcaster SIBC is expected to conduct its business in such a manner that instils unity amongst Solomon Islanders. Sadly, in recent times, the opposite was evident.
“We have seen that recently SIBC has been broadcasting news that is inciting alarm and anxiety in our public, mostly based on misinformation and lies. The Government has not been even given the opportunity to respond to this misinformation and lies,” the statement assed.
The transition will ensure that the National Broadcaster discharges its mandate in a fair and responsible manner in accordance with ethical journalism.
The statement adds, “the Government must protect our people from misinformation, especially when it is propagated by the National Broadcaster.”
Another reason for stripping off SIBC from its SOE status is because the Corporation has not been making any dividends since 2018 and has been dependent on the Government all its life.
Government support to SIBC includes:
(a) Subvention grant from Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet;
(b) Community Service Obligation under the State-Owned Enterprises Act 2007 (“SOE Act”);
It is critical to emphasise, SIBC will still operate under the Broadcasting Act Cap 112 as it has been doing since the nation gained political independence in 1978 but will not be bound by the State Owned Enterprise Act.