Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has ordered the national broadcaster of the Solomon Islands to cease broadcasting content critical of his government.
The move crystallises ongoing warnings that corrupt Pacific leaders will—with the backing of Beijing—steadily erode their country’s democratic institutions in a bid to stay in power.
The SIBC has recently hosted paid talkback programmes with the National Council of Women, Transparency Solomon Islands, and opposition leader Matthew Wale—all have been critical of current Prime Minister Sogavare and a recent decision to extend parliamentary terms from four to five years.
Ongoing Pressure to Tow the Party LineThe move comes as the broadcaster endures sustained pressure from the Solomons prime minister.
In late July, Sogavare removed the media group from the government’s schedule of state-owned enterprises—potentially affecting future funding streams.
He further claimed the media was inciting anxiety in the public using “misinformation” and “deliberate lies.”
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responded, saying it was aware of the recent developments.
“A free and independent media is vital to building strong communities and ensuring democratic accountability,” a spokesperson told The Epoch Times.
“Australia supports the development of a diverse, independent and professional Pacific media sector. The government will engage closely with Pacific counterparts through the implementation of the Indo-Pacific Broadcasting Strategy, as we build on existing training programs for Pacific journalists.”
The Breaking Down of the Solomons DemocracyThe latest developments in the South Pacific nation come amid concerns Beijing is waging all-out “entropic and unrestricted warfare” to gain a foothold over the region.
South Pacific expert Cleo Paskal said instigators like the Chinese Communist Party try to leverage every area it can, including cyber, economic, political, legal, and media, to destabilise a government.
“Those weapons are used to weaken the target country from the inside and to fragment and create disorder in the target country so that it is less able to withstand Chinese influence,” Paskal told The Epoch Times.
“That process of creating instability and fragmentation can be described as creating a state of ‘entropy’—of political, social, and economic entropy—where things start to just break down. And in that state of disorder, China can create a new order with itself and its proxies at the centre.”
Meanwhile, leaders like Sogavare, or Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman, will leverage these conditions to extend their hold on power—they already face intense pressure domestically and could lose upcoming elections.
In the case of the Solomons, the prime minister’s decision to force its national broadcaster to self-censor content is another step toward weakening the country’s already fragile democratic institutions and prolonging his time in office.
Sogavare has also managed to assuage international concerns over a security deal with Beijing that opens the door for weapons, troops, and naval ships to be stationed in the region.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he was “very confident” that a military base would not be established following a visit to the island.
“We need to be prepared to listen to what they have to say, be prepared to assist in their development.”