Tuesday, 20 January 2009 4:44 AM

Vanuatu Newspaper Publisher Assaulted by Prison Officers

The publisher of Vanuatu's Daily Post was brutally assaulted by members of the country's Correctional Services following the publication of pictures and stories on the burning down of the former French prison in Port Vila.

As reported by the Vanuatu Daily Post, Publisher Marc Neil - Jones was assaulted by members of Correctional Services 'at the newspaper office on Saturday at about 12.45pm that left him with a suspected broken nose, bruised eye and abrasions'.

'The 51 year old Vanuatu citizen was by himself in his office when a truck pulled up with angry officers allegedly under the influence of alcohol working with Correctional Services at the prison'.

'They stormed into the office and accused Neil- Jones of causing the dismissal of Joshua Bong as Acting Director of Correctional Services and demanding to know who was going to look after the prisoners now'.

According to the report, Neil- Jones said, "One of them was well built, strong and with a belly wearing shorts and a singlet punched me in the eye and nose and hit me four or five times."

"I was kicked a number of times when I was on the ground. The two others with him threatened to kill me because I hadn't got their side of the story on the problems with the prison. One threatened me with a knife and said he would cut my neck and another threatened to shoot me with a gun. They said they were going to take me to the prison to look after the prisoners. It was not a pleasant experience".

"They repeatedly said I was responsible for the problems with the prisoners because my staff journalists had not got their side of the story. I think they must have read the paper and seen the news on Saturday that the Prime Minister's office had made the decision to remove Bong from the position of Acting DG of Correctional services and replace him with Mark Bebe."

Last month, inmates had escaped from the former French jail after setting fire to the complex following complaints of human rights problems and abuse allegedly committed by Joshua Bong, the then Acting DG of Correctional Services, and his correctional officers.

According to the report, 'Neil - Jones had written a strong editorial in the Post after the prison had been burnt down calling for Joshua Bong to step down or be suspended until the results of the Commission of Enquiry led by Professor Don Patterson had been completed' and that the 'numerous prison escapes, allegations of human rights problems in the jail and the burning down of the jail under Bong's control were grounds for suspension until such time as Commission of Enquiry was completed'.

'Neil-Jones said he tried to reason with the trained police and VMF officers that he was not responsible for deciding what went in the newspaper day to day but they would not listen, made racist comments to the effect this was their country and threw a computer to the ground, overturned plants and punched and kicked him'.

'The Publisher has now demanded that the police, Correctional Services and government arrest those who were involved and sort the matter out internally'.