Kiribati

Area: 728 sq. km.
Population: 84,000
Language: English
Type of state: republic
Head of state and government: President Teburoro Tito


Kiribati - 2003 Annual report

The government pushed through a controversial press law amendment in the face of domestic opposition and also criticism by international press freedom organisations. It allows the authorities to cancel media operating licences if a complaint is filed, opening the way to censorship. The privately-owned media is meanwhile growing slowly.

Parliament approved amendments to the press law in October despite objections by the opposition and international press freedom bodies who saw it as an effort to stifle criticism of the government.
The so-called "Titabu Tabane" bill, sent to parliament on 30 May and approved on second reading on 7 October, allows the Newspaper Registration Office, whose head is to be appointed by the government, to shut down any publication against which a complaint was filed. It also requires media proprietors, editor and printers to publish nothing that "offends against good taste or decency or is likely to encourage or incite to crime or to lead to disorder or be offensive to public feeling."
Published material must be presented with "due accuracy and impartiality" and when an article "contains matters affecting the credibility or reputation of any person," they must be able to respond in the same article. Defiance of these requirements or continuing to publish after cancellation of an operating licence will be recognised as an offence while persistence in this will draw a fine of 300 euros.
The government said the measure was to combat a growing number of "libellous pamphlets," but opposition politicians feared an attempt to gag them and said it was aimed at the country’s only independent paper, Kiribati Newstar, published by former President Ieremia Tabai, which competes with the government paper Te Uekera. The amended press law caused the media to water down its criticism of the government during the campaign for the 29 November general elections.
The government authorised on 14 December the opening of the country’s first independent radio station, FM 101. Its owner, former President Tabai, owner of Kiribati Newstar, had been asking for a broadcasting licence for four years.



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see also
2003 Africa Annual Report
2003 Americas Annual Report
2003 Europe Annual Report
2003 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report