29 Aug 2012

Vanuatu minister admits being on Phocea but demands media apology

3:10 pm on 29 August 2012

Vanuatu's Minister of Education, Marcelino Pepite, has issued an ultimatum to local media which he claims defamed him by publishing stories revealing he was on board the super yacht Phocea before it was cleared by Customs.

At a media conference he announced he is giving the Daily Post newspaper and the government owned Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation, or VBTC, one week to apologise.

He says he is a supporter of media freedom but cannot tolerate the way the two media services did not seek his side of the story.

Mr Pepite admits being on the yacht but says he was ordered to board by the government, though he told local media he could not say who was behind this direction.

He also says police are not planning to lay charges against him for boarding Phocea, but earlier this week police said he and another minister who was reportedly on the yacht, Alfred Carlot, could be charged.

Most of the Phocea's crew have been charged with immigration offences, while the skipper is still facing charges.