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Govt tunes out over threats by publisher

Monday November 14, 2016 Written by Published in Politics

THE GOVERNMENT appears to be ignoring pressure from publisher and columnist George Pitt to drop litigation against him, or face the consequences of Cook Islands Radio and Cook Islands Television being turned off in retaliation.


Pitt is being sued by the government for alleged contempt of court based on two articles he wrote relating to the high profile Teina Bishop case.

The articles were published in a weekly publication while the trial was being held.

Some journalists have commented that Pitt’s articles were highly unethical and should not have been publicised while the court case was underway.

Long-time broadcaster Bruce Hill has said Pitt’s actions were out of line and unethical for a publisher and columnist.

Last week the controversial publisher said if Crown Law continues to pursue the case against him, he would “turn all the switches off” adding that “they don’t realise the ramifications of their stupidity”.

“If they do that to me, I will do this to them.”

There have been concerns expressed over Pitt’s threats to shut down radio and television as the country enters into the November to April cyclone season.

Both mediums are used to broadcast cyclone warnings and updates.  This is particularly important to the outer islands where internet access is limited.

Pitt says he hadn’t made a threat, but is instead naming “an option”.

Earlier this month Pitt said a triple heart bypass, arthritis in both knees and several other ailments prevent him from being able to climb the stairs to the courthouse. 

He is a director of Elijah Communications, which owns the radio and television stations and associated 10-year broadcasting licences.

He has also implied that if things proceed, he would expose a number of sensitive issues involving government politicians.

The other directors are three siblings and Jeane Matenga-Isamaela, chief executive of TV and radio.

However, Broadcasting minister Mark Brown doesn’t seem overly concerned over Pitt trying to pressure government to drop the civil case.

Under the Broadcasting Act, Brown can suspend a radio or television broadcasting licence if he believes it’s “in the public interest to do so” - in that the licensee has failed to provide a service appropriate to the general public.

Broadcasting licence holders are also required to make their services available during a state of emergency.