Honiara, Solomon Islands:
The Solomon Islands reportedly plan to ban Facebook after the government received harsh criticism of the social media platform, which sparked outrage among right-wing groups and opposition groups in the Pacific island nation.
Communications Minister Peter Shanel Agovaka drafted plans for a temporary ban this week, and discussions have been held with ISPs to implement them, the Solomon Times reported.
“Abusive languages used against ministers, prime ministers (Manasseh Sogavare), character murder, character defamation, all of these are worrying issues,” he told the publication.
Sogavare’s office did not respond to questions about the government’s plans, which opposition leader Matthew Wale said would constitute unjustified censorship.
“Social media, especially Facebook, was an important platform for citizens to freely exchange views,” Wale told AFP.
“At this time there is no reason to justify a ban on Facebook or social media. A vibrant and engaged citizenry is vital to responsible government.”
Facebook is widespread in the Solomon Islands, where the population of 700,000 is scattered across rugged volcanic islands and coral atolls, making other forms of communication difficult.
Sogavare itself regularly uses the platform to disseminate government news, including updates to Covid-19 infection numbers.
Facebook said it would “reach” the Solomon Islands government about the plan.
“This move will affect thousands of people in the Solomon Islands who use our services to have and have important discussions across the Pacific,” a statement said.
“Obvious attack on human rights”
Amnesty International said disrupting a critical source of information during a global pandemic could cost lives and urged the government to reconsider.
“Banning a social media site just because people post comments the authorities don’t like is an obvious and brazen attack on human rights,” said Amnesty’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze.
She said that if the plan were put into practice, the Solomon Islands would join China, North Korea and Iran as the only countries that have banned Facebook entirely.
Another Pacific island nation, Nauru, restricted access to Facebook from 2015 to 2018 after coming under pressure to host an Australian-funded asylum seeker detention center.
The Samoa government announced a similar ban in July this year, but has not yet taken any action.
Honiara-based lawmaker Peter Kenilorea Jr., who heads Parliament’s influential External Relations Committee, accused the Solomon Islands government of “strangling” free speech.
“This decision has profound and far-reaching consequences for us as a nation – it gets to the heart of the democratic principles and values on which our nation is based,” he told AFP.
Our Telecom, one of the largest Internet service providers in the country, said it had not received any communications from the telecommunications authority and could not comment further.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)