An inside look at the role of media in Solomon Islands’ national security landscape

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While Solomon Islands has been in the international media due to security threats and agreements in the last few years, the relations between local media and national security is rarely probed. Yet, the role of the media in national security needs to be better understood and built upon to prevent and reduce conflict.

National security in Solomon Islands context is complex, with several interlinked threats. For instance, the National Security Strategy has five critical pillars; sovereignty, government, economy, people and society, environment (including climate change). While geopolitical conflicts have consequences locally, more Solomon Islanders are at risk of climate change, violence against women and girls, cybercrime, other crime (e.g. stealing and sabotage) and negative consequences from unwanted and exploitative extractive industries (such as logging and mining).

For journalists, reporting on these issues requires general understanding of a range of topics, and knowing where to go to get verifiable information, a task that is harder in situations where rumours of conflict circulate and government agencies do not engage with the media. For instance, a recent email from an anonymous source sent to all media in May claimed that ex militants were planning a series of attacks on infrastructure with support from representatives of the US government. Where do you start to verify what is fact, what is rumour, and different interests involved?

At a recent workshop held by the Media Association of Solomon Islands (MASI) and Australia Pacific Security College, involving 20 journalists, the media discussed with themselves and relevant agencies the challenges they face. One of these difficulties is asking hard questions of powerful people about governance, corruption, policing and the economy when you may not have confidence in national institutions or the players in a story to respect the role of the media. As one journalist said in a recent MASI survey: “How do we ask challenging questions without losing our job?” And as another journalist raised in the workshop: “If we report police misconduct, how can we be safe ourselves?”

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