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VANUATU: Pacific media condemn minister 'and his thugs' for attack on Daily Post

Daily Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones ... vows to file assault charges against minister. Photo: Pacific Scoop

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Item: 7300

Pacific Media Centre news desk

PORT VILA: Pacific media organisations have reacted with outrage over a violent attack on the Vanuatu Daily Post allegedly led by a cabinet minister with the newspaper publisher vowing to bring assault charges against those involved.

The mid-afternoon attack happened yesterday when Public Utilities Minister Harry Iauko led a group of men into the newspaper office who allegedly assaulted publisher Marc Neil-Jones, and threatened his editor and other staff, according to a Daily Post front page report today.

Editor Royson Willie wrote in the newspaper that the aggressive visit to the office was because the Daily Post had published articles “about the minister’s handling of land issues, the Airports Vanuatu Limited board suspension, Transparency International’s column and letters to editor”. All these issues were reported during the week.

Police arrived at the Daily Post just as the group was leaving and were reportedly investigating.

Publisher Neil-Jones,  a 53-year-old diabetic, angrily condemned the group for the attack, saying: “I can’t think of many countries where a minister of state would survive long if he marched into a national newspaper with a gang of thugs employed within the ministry and assaulted the publisher of a national daily paper because he didn’t like the valid criticism he was getting from all quarters, including the newspaper, members of the public through letters to the editor and Transparency International.”

Saturday's front page of the Vanuatu Daily Post. Image:VDPEditor Willie called the attack “a disgrace and unacceptable”.

“This is appalling,” said Cook Islands News publisher John Woods, who is also an executive member of the regional Pasifika Media Association. He paid tribute to Neil-Jones’ courage.

“It behoves us all to support Marc and his newspaper against bigotry and violence like this.”

‘Mindless brutality’
Dr David Robie, director of the Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre,  also condemned the “mindless brutality” of the attack on a free press and called on Prime Minister Sato Kilman’s government to sack the minister and to rigorously investigate the attack.

The centre runs a Pacific Media Watch project and reported the attack earlier today.

Pacific Freedom Forum called on Pacific and the Vanuatu governments to distance themselves from this "shameful thuggery".

The front page Daily Post report said:

The group led by the minister entered the Daily Post office quietly and all – including the Minister for Public Utilities – went into the publisher’s office and assaulted him at his desk.

The minister was clearly heard by
Daily Post staff shouting at the top of his voice as Neil-Jones was assaulted.

An angry Neil-Jones said he would be pressing charges against the minister on several counts, including aiding and abetting an assault.

He said he will be pressing charges against the minister because he was the one who could have stopped the men from going into the
Daily Post office to assault, but instead Iauko stood right next to him and watched the assault taking place.

Strangled, kicked
A doctor’s examination on Neil-Jones found marks on his neck indicating someone had attempted to strangle him. Neil-Jones said he was grabbed  by the neck and kicked.

“I was particularly angry to seek Jay Ngwele with the group because he owes me over Vt300,000 for construction work that he was paid to do but never did,” he said.

Minister Iauko also threatened the editor of the
Daily Post, Royson Willie, saying “yu wantem mi brekem face blo yu?” (do you want me to break your face?) with one of the men by the name of Nanua from North Tanna threatening the editor.

The editor has condemned the attack on the free and independent media in Vanuatu, saying such action is a disgrace and unacceptable, especially when a state minister was involved in such completely not statesmanship action.

The men with the minister were mostly from North Tanna, Middle Bush on Tanna and Whitesands on Tanna, living in Port Vila.

The thugs used a government vehicle with registration number G762 to carry out the act.

This government vehicle was driven by Iauko’s political crony, Jay Ngwele.

Marc Neil-Jones has been attacked and threatened by politicians on several past occasions because of the outspoken stance of his newspaper Daily Post. In January 2009, he suffered a broken nose, cuts and a kick to the body when Correctional Service officers attacked him in the office over an article about the burning down of  the French jail.

In 2000, he was deported by then Prime Minister Barak Sope for publishing “state secrets” – including “the news that eventually got Sope convicted in court”. - Pacific Scoop/Pacific Media Watch

Vanuatu Ombudsman 2001 report on the deportation of Marc-Neil Jones

Full front page of the Vanuatu Daily Post

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
(cc) Creative Commons


Hold him to account

It is with a deep sadness I read about yet another assault on a publisher of news in my beloved childhood home of Vanuatu. The freedom to report on government activities without such brutal retaliation is fundamental to an empowered community. The minister has done nothing but set back the empowerment of his own citizenry who should hold him to account. Media freedom is fundamental to developing an influential place in the 21st century.

Outrageous reaction by Vanuatu minister

Gee this is outrageous and low-minded reaction by the VGovt....what disgusts me more is the issue whether VDP is paid or non-paid, PINA should issue a statement immediately as the origin this particular body was set up. Gosh, this is unacceptable and for crying out loud, why divert resources and money to a 'self claimed body representing the region when it should be called 'body representing self-promoted individuals'....what would you say Sano if a similar situation takes place for a non-member individual or group? Prayers and thoughts are with you Marc....!

Vicky Lepou, Apia

How low can a minister go?

This is yet another attack on Mr. Neil-Jones & media freedom in Vanuatu…..& the attacks are getting more serious & bolder. It urgently requires the Govt. to do something to ensure media freedom & the security of media personnels in Vanuatu. Who knows what can happen if there’s another attack? Mr. Neil-Jones has been through a lot already.

And btw….how low could a cabinet minister go??? What did he think he was…a Mafia boss????….unacceptable, despicable, criminalistic & inhumane in every sense of the word!…calls for PM Kilman to suspend the guy pending investigations….no wait…that’s a bit too civil for a thug like him….just do everyone a favor & kick him out….what a disgrace!


Vanuatu media - Gvt relations ~ new 'procedures'?

This is outrageous and requires very decisive action on the part of the Vanuatu Government to immediately suspend Minister Harry Iauko from all Ministerial and Parliamentary duties pending the outcome of an equally prompt and decisive police investigation into this disgraceful incident.

Is this how Government - media relations are now to be conducted in Vanuatu? If a Minister doesn't like stories published in the media, he, and several of his associates, using a Government vehicle, can just turn up at a newsroom, barge their way into the boss's office, reportedly assault him, threaten the Editor, and terrorise the outlet's staff.

This is also a test for the Media Association of Vanuatu - this outrage occurred on their patch - and for the Pacific Islands News Association, whose current President is deeply versed in Vanuatu media. Both organisations must speak up very loudly and clearly to condemn this kind of activity, and support the Publisher and staff of the Vanuatu Daily Post.

More here -

7300 VANUATU: Sack Iauko

this is really sad. PM kilman should sack iauko on the spot.

Stevenson Liu
Port Vila

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