CIVIL society organisations (CSO) in the Solomon Islands are utterly disappointed with the Cabinet’s decision to suspend Facebook in the country.
A statement from the Development Services Exchange (DSE) yesterday said at a time when the Solomons has confirmed cases of covid-19 and updates are shared through the facebook platform, the government’s move to shut it down is clearly an attack on human rights – the rights of people to express their concerns on issues affecting citizens of this country.
“It is indeed a sad time for the people of Solomon Islands,” says DSE, the central body for CSOs of the country.
DSE understands Government is putting a temporary ban on the social media platform after Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Communication and Civil Aviation Minister Peter Shanel Agovaka told Cabinet the forum had been grossly abused by the people, claiming that character assassination, defamation of character are issues of concerns.
However, DSE also understands the government itself also uses Facebook widely to disseminate information on public health during the covid-19 pandemic.
DSE has recognised facebook to be a people’s go-to platform to gather information, updates and share knowledge on national crisis.
As the national CSO/NGO umbrella body in the Solomon Islands with a constituency of 65 members, the platform is used to amplify DSE’s and member CSOs’ work on the ground and for sharing information.
Solomon Islands will now join China, Iran, and North Korea as outlawing Facebook. Other countries have temporarily blocked it, including the island nation of Nauru which prohibited Facebook in 2015 but unblocked access in 2018.
DSE expresses concerns that this move will have a huge impact on the work of civil society organisations who continue to inform and update the populace given the different sectors they represent which include health, environment and conservation, climate change, advocacy on development issues, youth and women, faith based organisations, media, human rights advocates, child protection, social welfare, etc.
“Facebook has been an advocacy and lobbying platform for our members.
“Community visitations, monitoring and feedbacks from the people on the grounds especially our provincial NGOs/CBOS, before, during and after any natural disasters, will no longer be shared on Facebook if the ban is going to eventuate.
“The Solomon Islands is home to about 685,000 people. While the archipelago stretches across a vast area of ocean, Facebook has played a bigger role during Covid-19.
“DSE on behalf of its members is reiterating calls by the private sector, Transparency SI, young people and the public for the government to reconsider its decision to temporarily ban face-book.
Banning facebook is not the solution, penalising the law breakers for defamation of characters and character assassination as claimed by the government should be the immediate action and the law enforcers should be put to work to ensure such bad practices are dealt with accordingly.”
DSE also calls on the government to be responsible in putting resources for a mass awareness on how to use social media responsibly if it is serious about the impacts social media platforms like facebook is or will be having on the country.