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Island’s media watchdog is left short of members

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Efforts are being made to find more people to serve on St Helena’s media standards commission, only weeks after it was set up.

Julian Cairns-Wicks reported in the St Helena Independent that it had been established with the minimum number of members required by law – and one of them had since stepped down.

But St Helena Government said only one complaint had been made since new controls came into effect on 9 October 2012, and it was dismissed by the board’s president, John MacRitchie.

The Media Standards Ordinance says between two and four people must serve on the commission, alongside Mr MacRitchie, who is the island’s chief magistrate.

Jenny Corker and Steve Biggs were named as the only two members, but Mr Biggs has declined to take up his place.

A government statement said: “Mr Biggs has never accepted any commission, having taken no oath of office. There have accordingly been no meetings of the members of the commission.

“The Judicial Services Commission are to advise the governor as to the appointment of up to three more commissioners.

“It is essential to ensure that such members are those best placed to justly, independently and impartially carry out the regulatory objectives of the commission.”

Those sitting in judgment on complaints will have judicial powers.

The government said it was confident the commission would have enough members in place – a quorum – in time to deal with any future complaints.

It said they will be called in only after the president decides a complaint merits an inquiry.

“The initial stages of the complaints process are such as to be dealt with by the president and the clerk of the commission,” it said.

The first complaint under the new law objected to anonymous letters being published. But the complaint form was incomplete and no further information was supplied when requested.

“The complainant was advised that a complaint must be about a specific item in a specific publication or publications and specify which part of the editor’s code this specific item is said to breach,” said the statement.

“The president therefore directed that in the particular circumstances it was not appropriate for the commission to inquire into the complaint.”

The complaint was dismissed.

Media Standards Ordinance, St Helena

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