We regret the Council of Pilung’s demand to have Joyce McClure sent out of Yap and declared persona non grata. We regret such an attempt to silence a journalist and curtail freedom of the press.
Ms McClure, an American citizen who has been a resident of Yap for three years, is the Pacific Island Times’ correspondent in Yap. She also writes for other regional and international media outlets.
Among the recent stories Ms Joyce has written include a private company’s apparent attempt to bribe the newly installed state officials. Ms Joyce reported that Yap Gov. Henry S. Falan and Lt. Gov. Jesse John Salalu rejected the gift bag containing a bottle of Chivas Regal and an envelope filled with crispy dollar bills amounting to $4,000, which the company sent during the officials’ Jan. 14 inauguration. Last year, we published Ms McClure's investigative story about Chinese commercial vessels harvesting Yap fish with local help.
The management team of the Pacific Island Times supports Ms McClure. We have confidence in her competence and integrity. We value her journalistic contributions. Her unrelenting efforts to cover government affairs and community events in Yap provide valuable information not just to the local community but the regional community, as well.
We disagree with the council’s claim that Ms Joyce’s “journalistic activities “[have] been or may be disruptive to the state environment.” Her reporting provides transparency, which is vital to every democratic society.
The Pacific Island Times and Ms McClure have no agenda other than to provide truthful information to the people of the Pacific region. She is doing this job not as an outsider but as a member of the community, which has become home to her.
In every small community, truth-telling is not an easy job, especially when the truth gives discomfort to some. Sometimes, it comes with consequences, but as journalists, we have a duty to fulfill, i.e. to keep the citizenry informed.
Expelling Ms McClure out of the country would set a dangerous precedent that puts anyone in FSM– not just the media –in danger of being punished for speaking up. It can be an effective tool of harassment and intimidation to suppress free speech and free press. But to quote Rappler’s Maria Ressa, “We will continue to hold the line.”