Freedom of expression is intact
By ANDREW FANASIA
PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare affirmed in Parliament that the suspension of Facebook (FB) in the country will no way silence the freedom of expression enshrined in our National Constitution.
Mr. Sogavare made his statement in parliament to clarify his government’s intention to temporarily close the social media platform Facebook – a decision which was agreed by Cabinet last week.
The government decision was heavily debated last week in both the social and mainstream media.
Many, including the Office of the Leader of Opposition, have questioned the freedom of expression which was inscribed in the country’s National Constitution.
Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze told the Diplomat that to ban a social media site simply because people are posting comments the authorities don’t like is a blatant and brazen attack on human rights.
Facebook Australia also issued a statement requesting a dialogue with our government to further discuss the Cabinet’s decision on the temporary ban.
However, Mr Sogavare yesterday came out strong on the floor of the National Parliament explaining his government’s decision.
He said while he appreciated all the comments against the proposed temporary closure of Facebook a fundamental that is provided for and protected by the constitution is still intact “contrary to all the nonsense we are hearing in the media”.
“The decision to temporarily suspend access to Facebook was not at any time made with the intention to ban the media or people who are constructively raising issues against the government in the social media.
“It is important to suspend Facebook because there is no legislation in the Solomon Islands to govern and regulate the use of such social media platforms such as Facebook.
“And in short the use of social media platforms such as Facebook in Solomon Islands is unregulated,” Mr. Sogavare said.
He further emphasised that Facebook in Solomon Islands is a potential threat to public security, public safety, and public morality.
He also said that the unregulated use of Facebook in the country is also a multiplier in the decaying of Christian principles, moral values, and cultural norms in our society.
“This is something any responsible government must take seriously,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Sogavare said this freedom of expression must not be used amongst others to defame other people, incite violence, hatred, and discrimination against others.
He also stated that bullying is on the rise amongst Facebook users especially people using fake accounts.
“And because of the use of fake Facebook accounts they had not been brought to justice so the government must act to ensure that they are protected and not discriminated against,” he said.
Mr. Sogavare said the government is in the process of consulting with the service provider and other important stakeholders to address this issue.
He also added that they will consult Facebook Company for further dialogue.