Suppressing the truth and spreading lies
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is attempting to influence public discourse in Solomon Islands through coordinated information operations that seek to spread false narratives and suppress information on a range of topics. Following the November 2021 Honiara riots and the March 2022 leaking of the China – Solomon Islands security agreement, the CCP has used its propaganda and disinformation capabilities to push false narratives in an effort to shape the Solomon Islands public’s perception of security issues and foreign partners. In alignment with the CCP’s regional security objectives, those messages have a strong focus on undermining Solomon Islands’ existing partnerships with Australia and the US.
Although some of the CCP’s messaging occurs through routine diplomatic engagement, there’s a coordinated effort to influence the population across a broad spectrum of information channels. That spectrum includes Chinese party-state media, CCP official-led statements and publications in local and social media, and the amplification of particular individual and pro-CCP content via targeted Facebook groups.
There’s now growing evidence to suggest that CCP officials are also seeking to suppress information that doesn’t align with the party-state’s narratives across the Pacific islands through the coercion of local journalists and media institutions.
The authors of this report argue that the Australian government should coordinate with other foreign partners of Solomon Islands, including the US, New Zealand, Japan and the EU, to further assist local Pacific media outlets in hiring, training and retaining high-quality professional journalists. A stronger, more resilient media industry in Solomon Islands will be less vulnerable to disinformation and the pressures exerted by local CCP officials.