Media prize a ‘defeat’ for Australian refugee censorship, says author

Behrouz Boochani … Australian government used “systematic censorship” to control refugee information. Image: Hoda Afshar/Behrouz Boochani/RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

A refugee journalist detained on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island says winning an Italian award for investigative journalism could end censorship of offshore detention in the Australian media.

Behrouz Boochani, who has made a documentary and written a book during his five years in exile, has won the Anna Politkovskaya Prize for Press Freedom from the Italian magazine Internazionale.

Boochani regularly contributes to The Guardian and the Saturday Paper in Australia but said other publications supported the Australian government’s efforts to restrict information about its offshore detention regime.

READ MORE: Australia needs a moral revolution

“The Australian government couldn’t keep 2000 people, including children and women, in a harsh prison camps on Manus and Nauru without systematic censorship,” Boochani said.

“I have many experiences working with the media in Australia and also internationally over the past five years and I know that the government always tries to manage the information and censor the situation,” he said.

-Partners-

“But after five years I think they are defeated because international media and public opinion are aware completely of what the government has done on Manus and Nauru.”

Condemning a fact
The Guardian reported that the award’s organisers paid tribute to Boochani’s “commitment to condemning a fact which has been intentionally kept out of the spotlight”.

The prize was a symbol of the struggle of the refugees who had spoken out from offshore detention as well as their advocates, human rights defenders and independent journalists who had covered their stories, the journalist said.

“I think it is very important because our work is acknowledged and recognised internationally.”

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Loss of MSF mental health carers from Nauru heightens fears for children

Doctors Without Borders staff at a display tent during Nauru’s 50th independence celebrations in January. Image: MSF

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Health and human rights advocates fear the mental ill-health of refugees on Nauru could worsen following the Pacific government’s move to scrap a vital support service.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF – Médecins Sans Frontières) was told on Friday its free psychological and psychiatric services, provided to both Nauruans and refugees since November 2017, were “no longer required”.

The medical aid agency was given 24 hours to cease operations which is comprised of a clinic at the Republic of Nauru Hospital and home visits.

READ MORE: Manus and Nauru background and updates

The organisation indicated a desire to find a way to continue its work, reports Australian Associated Press.

“At this stage MSF wishes to reiterate our strong commitment to providing quality mental health care to all those in need on the island,” a spokesperson said.

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“We are extremely concerned that the health of our patients may be affected by this decision and urge the authorities to grant us permission to continue our lifesaving work.”

The abrupt dismissal follows a report by two prominent Australian refugee organisations saying most refugee children on Nauru are experiencing life-threatening mental health problems, including not eating or drinking and showing suicidal symptoms.

An Australian protest over deteriorating conditions for children at the Nauru detention centre. Image: Al Jazeera

‘Add to distress’
Advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition said MSF’s absence would “add enormously to the distress among asylum seekers and refugees” because the Australian government’s contracted mental health care provider, International Health and Medical Services, was “stretched to breaking point”.

The Department of Home Affairs said on Saturday MSF’s dismissal was a matter for the Nauruan government and that it would continue to provide “appropriate healthcare and mental health support to refugees and asylum seekers through contracted service providers”.

MSF uses more than 30,000 doctors, nurses and other mostly volunteer personnel to provide medical aid in more than 70 countries.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Refugees, journalist detention in Nauru ‘overshadow Pacific issues’

Support was widespread for journalist Barbara Dreaver’s detention at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru earlier this month. But, reports Maxine Jacobs for Asia Pacific Journalism, some commentators argue journalists should abide by their host nation’s reporting regulations and the Nauru refugee crisis is not as important to Pacific nations as it is to New Zealand and Australia.

While controversy dogged Nauru’s detention of TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver during the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this month, some critics question how the reporting “overshadowed” climate change and other critical Pacific issues.

New Zealand journalists have expressed their outrage against the holding of Dreaver during the summit, but Massey University’s Pasifika director Associate Professor Malakai Koloamatangi says reporting of important issues discussed at the forum was sidelined by attention focused on media freedom.

“Because of what happened to Barbara Dreaver, and the lack of access to refugees, it was kind of a distraction and it detracted from maybe covering the main business at the forum,” he says.

READ MORE: Barbara Dreaver: Mana counts in the Pacific

APJS NEWSFILE

Dr Koloamatangi says issues such as climate change, regional security, immigration and trade are significant concerns for the Pacific and the forum.

However, these issues had been “outmatched by the spotlight” on Dreaver and Nauru’s refugee camps.

-Partners-

“The refugee issue is probably not as important in the Pacific as it is in New Zealand and Australia, that’s really the reality of the situation.

People here and Australia have a lot of time to be concerned about the refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, but unfortunately for Pacific Islanders themselves there are other pressing issues like poverty and domestic violence, third world diseases and so on that they are probably more concerned about.”

Detained, released and then reinstated TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver … Nauru government “displeased” with NZ reporting on the refugee issue. Image: Barbara Dreaver/Twitter

Highly sensitive
Dr Koloamatangi says the refugee issue is a highly sensitive one for Nauru.

He says he does not condone limiting press freedom, but it is a sensitive and complicated issue which needs to be looked at from many points of view.

“All journalists need to be respectful of the laws and regulations of the countries where they work…but on the other hand you have people who have decided that this is the way they’re going to work, regardless of the fact that they will be punished by the law.

“Some of them have been to prison, so it’s a choice.

“Obviously when Barbara decided not to follow the directions given by the Nauruan government she was obviously taking a risk, and with risk come possibilities of penalties and punishment…but it’s what makes her the quality journalist that she is.”

Nauru issued a statement explaining Dreaver’s detention by police, saying her accreditation and access for the Pacific Islands Forum had been revoked due to a breach in visa terms, but was reinstated the next day.

Dreaver said the interview she held with a refugee was outside a restaurant, not inside a camp.

Detained three hours
However during the interview she said she was questioned by police and held at a police station for three hours for breaching her visa.

“I was under the impression, and I know, we were allowed to talk to refugees. I think it probably shows that things are a wee but sensitive here. In fact, a lot sensitive.”

Nauru’s statement said the government expected media to portray the detention of Dreaver as preventing press freedom.

“We have only asked for co-operation from the media in order to preserve public safety, and this is not unreasonable.”

Nauru President Baron Waqa said media attending the forum were not interested issues in the Pacific – only issues for their own nations and they should have had a stronger focus on the forum.

“How many leaders here? But we’re having to deal with these other issues which do not even touch on the concerns of the Pacific and the rest of the leaders. It disappoints us,” he said.

“Don’t tell me about refugees being an issue. How can it be an issue for Tonga, for Kiribati? No, it’s an issue for Australia and for all those refugee advocates out there.”

‘Selling news’
President Waqa said journalists were invited and came to Nauru to report on the forum but chose to report on other issues on the island.

He said the “media are impressing your will on us” and “sell our news”.

However, Radio New Zealand journalist Gia Garrick, who reported on the forum, rejected the President’s statement.

“Sell the stories? For money? Well, being part of [public broadcaster] RNZ I would completely refute that.

“It’s kind of a double standard from the President because on the first day he invited journalists to go and talk to refugees in the community, saying things along the lines of the refugees here live harmoniously, they live in the community, we’re not going to stop access to them, we invite you to talk to them and you’re more than welcome.”

A journalist who attended the forum provided Pacific Media Centre with the guidelines issued to journalists covering the event which states:

“You are only authorised to report on, or take photos or videos of, the PIF (Pacific Islands Forum). Any other subjects must be approved by the RON (Republic of Nauru).”

Mixed messages
Garrick said journalists were sent mixed messages from the get go because guidelines were vague and as the refugee situation was raised at the forum it was not clear what the restrictions were.

“There was no way a set of very vague visa guidelines and a direction from the media person was going to stop us from reporting the story.

“We still covered the forum as we would previous years, but there was also the matter of the refugees, the 900 refugees that they were keeping in detention centres on the island.”

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) supported Dreaver after her detention by Nauru police, stating in a release that her detention was unacceptable.

MFAT spokesperson Todd McClay said: “Freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any democracy and journalists must be free to tell important stories.”

Union E Tū, stood by the TVNZ Pacific correspondent, welcoming the support shown by MFAT, while challenging Australia for its alleged role in her detention.

“This is a story of huge public interest to audiences across the world and Barbara did not shy away from tackling it, even though it has always been clear authorities in both Nauru and Australia are not keen on a light being shone on the issue, E Tū said.

“While Barbara was detained by Nauru police, Australia too must take some responsibility for this attack on press freedom.”

Maxine Jacobs is a postgraduate student journalist on the Asia Pacific Journalism Studies course at AUT University.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Refugee children on Nauru ‘living without hope’, says advocacy group

Children outside RPC3 tents in Nauru … situation “untenable”. Image: Refugee Action Coalition/RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

A legal advocacy group has told the UN Human Rights Council that more than 100 asylum seeker and refugee children are living without hope on Nauru.

The Human Rights Law Centre addressed the latest council session in Geneva.

The centre’s Daniel Webb told the council that despite the fact the Australian government was professing its committment to human rights in Geneva, it continued to indefinitely imprison 102 children in its offshore detention centre on Nauru.

“Imprisoned for fleeing the same atrocities our government comes here and condemns. And after five years of detention, these children have now lost hope.

“Some have stopped speaking. Some have stopped eating. A 10-year-old boy recently tried to kill himself.”

Webb said if the detention was not stopped there would be deaths.

-Partners-

He said even the government’s own medical advisers were warning that the situation was untenable.

“Yet the Australian government still refuses to free these kids, and is fighting case after case in our Federal Court to deny them access to urgent medical care. Mr President, we are talking about 102 children.”

Australia presented their concerns regarding human rights around the world at the same session but did not mention their detention camps on Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Stick to our Forum visa rules, Nauru warns media via Twitter

Detained, released and now reinstated TVNZ Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver … Nauru government “displeased” with NZ reporting on the refugee issue. Image: Barbara Dreaver/Twitter

By RNZ Pacific

The Nauru government has taken to Twitter to warn journalists they are not above the law as they cover the Pacific Islands Forum.

Journalists covering the Forum are operating on visas with restrictions on reporting – in particular about the Australian-run detention camps.

New Zealand Television Pacific affairs journalist Barbara Dreaver lost her accreditation yesterday after Nauru said she had violated visa regulations.

READ MORE: Media freedom commentators condemn Nauru ‘gag’ actions

The TVNZ reporter was detained for more than three hours and stripped of her Forum accreditation – however that was reinstated today.

She had been interviewing a refugee outside a restaurant on the island when she was asked to go to a police station.

-Partners-

The Nauru government said journalists from New Zealand were not above the law and walking into certain areas unannounced increased risk.

The Nauru government’s ‘you aren’t above the law” media warning via Twitter. Image: PMC

The government also tweeted about the need for journalists to follow the rules, and accused some of reporting misinformation.

News reports disputed
At a news conference as part of the Forum President, Baron Waqa disputed news reports about what happened to Dreaver.

“No she wasn’t detained, she was taken in for questioning,” he said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who is also in Nauru, said freedom of the press was critical to democracy.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived earlier for the main day of the Forum and said she would be asking more questions about what happened during the course of the day.

She is joining other leaders in the traditional retreat, after which they will sign the Boe Declaration, making commitments about action on regional security, including transnational crime, illegal fishing and cybercrime.

RNZ political reporter Gia Garrick said journalists there did get a warning of sorts yesterday.

‘Wrong issues’
“We did have a warning. I guess that there was some displeasure or unrest from the Nauru government about the New Zealand reporting while we are here,” said Gia Garrick.

“We had an MFAT official sit the seven of us down, or actually it was the six of us minus Barbara [Dreaver], she wasn’t back at this stage …and tell us that the Nauru government would like to pass on a message to us that it would prefer if we reported on the Forum instead of just focusing on the one issue here.

“The government felt that we had not been reporting on the Forum to its satisfaction and been focusing on the wrong issues and so he wanted to pass on that it would be going against our visa conditions should we be going into these refugee camps and it was just a few hours later that Barbara Dreaver was detained or was taken to the police station.”

The Pacific Islands Forum ends today.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Nauru authorities detain TVNZ Pacific reporter for interviewing refugee

TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver … a respected Pacific correspondent who has reported the region for many years. Image: TVNZ screenshot

By RNZ Pacific

New Zealand journalist Barbara Dreaver has been detained by authorities in Nauru while covering the Pacific Islands Forum summit, reports Television New Zealand.

TVNZ said Dreaver was conducting an interview with a refugee when detained by police early this afternoon.

READ MORE: TVNZ reporter released after being held 4 hours

An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was with Dreaver but TVNZ reported that it was unsure of her whereabouts.

The Nauru government had limited the journalists covering the summit and placed restrictions on those who got approval to go, limiting who they could talk to and what issues they could discuss.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was also banned from covering the Forum summit after the Nauruan government accused the public broadcaster of “continued biased and false reporting” about the country.

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This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Dan McGarry: Fighting for media freedom and truth in the Pacific

When the host country Nauru banned the pool broadcaster, ABC, from the Pacific Islands summit set for next month, it was condemned widely for an attack on freedom on the media. Lee Duffield recently paid a visit to Dan McGarry, media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post, who took a lead, declaring his outlet would no longer go.

The Vanuatu-based journalist who pulled the plug on the Nauru government for interfering with media freedom was having a typical full day at the office and elsewhere around Port Vila.

Time was being taken up by the major event for his newspaper’s market, of a Chinese goodwill ship in port giving out free health care to thousands of citizens and a revival of trouble over the earthquake on Ambae Island.

He had joined the Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, on board the hospital ship, Peace Ark, together with a Chinese Rear-Admiral, Guan Bailin, recognising the visit as both a community happening and another part of China’s highly active influence-building.

On Ambae, where thousands have had to be evacuated since the earthquake and volcanic eruption a year ago, talk of a need for fresh evacuations was being matched with criticism of government relief efforts by the Opposition.

Day in the life
Dan McGarry characterised this as a day in the life of a Pacific Islands journalist, something like the experience of a country journalist in Australia, where the audience, contacts, critics and personal friends are the same people.

“Except that there are different cultures and you are reporting on national affairs.”

-Partners-

Life is tough enough for many people in the small island states – or “big ocean” states, as some like to say – with limited development and economic opportunity.

Add in the deeds of political leaders across the region partial to power without much responsibility, standing on their dignity, adverse to free circulation of information and life gets more difficult for all — especially the small number of media professionals trying to get out essential truths.

Pulling the plug
Awareness of getting out the truth on government interference promoted McGarry’s decision early in July to cancel his media outlet’s participation in the coming Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.

The Nauru government had announced its ban on a media pool for the summit during 1-9 September, because the joint broadcaster for the group was the Australian ABC.

It said the broadcaster was biased against it; its coverage of a Nauru election had come to interference in domestic politics and it had given the island’s President some tough scrutiny – “harassment” – evidently over issues linked to the asylum seeker camps there.

The ban was condemned by several Australian and Pacific media groups, including the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) and the Pacific Media Centre, the Canberra Press Gallery has had to consider a boycott on going, but News Corp broke ranks, citing its own dislike of the ABC.

Getting advice
In Port Vila, Dan McGarry was hearing advice from esteemed colleagues in his region that getting information was paramount, so never do a comprehensive boycott of an event.

McGarry’s response was defiant:

“That would apply with the Australian gallery together. But for outside media to take a position might have some additional effect. The Pacific Forum had been questionable to begin with. At the last Forum, in Samoa late last year, media access was severely restricted on any substantial stuff.

“Climate change was really the only issue, where the Pacific nations at the Paris Climate Change meeting had all wanted a standard of 1.5 degrees maximum warming, but this time failed to produce any consensus, not even a position statement.

“Considering media freedoms in the Pacific, it is not so bad here in Vanuatu. In other places, not so much. In Papua New Guinea they are compliant with government, a lot of information they are just not publishing, the Fiji Times is facing an existential threat and Nauru is a black hole.”

Thanks to the ABC
He also acknowledged the strategic role that has been played by the ABC and Radio Australia in preserving and getting out news.

“For following democratic norms, the ABC is one of our firm allies in the Pacific. Without such a strong relationship we would not have any kind of regional news to speak of. We have relied on them to get out stories that we cannot safely publish, as in the past with physical attacks on our own publisher.”

(Marc Neil-Jones who, after several incidents in 2009 with editor Royson Willie, was assaulted after publishing on scandals in the prisons system.)

“We could rely on them in a political crisis. It would help to have an ABC reporter in the room, and similarly they would not face political reprisals. We need them as they need us and I am on Australian radio on a fairly frequent basis.”

He said there was some hope the Nauru government might be getting prevailed upon to quietly change its position, by other governments.

“They might be able to bring them back; it would be in the ‘Pacific way’.”

Profile
Dan McGarry, from a family that had recently migrated to Canada from Ireland, arrived in Vanuatu in 2003 as a technology specialist with non-government organisations working on development.

As chief technologist with the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, he had worked on capacity building projects and civil society.

“It was assisting lawmakers in prioritising, visualising and making open processes, for budgets, fisheries or health care”, and three years ago, “with a reputation for neutrality”, was appointed media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post group.

With the practice of “ear to the ground” journalism, he lists developments in a range of fields where information builds up, not always ready for publication.

Comments
Some comments:

On competition for influence between China and the “West”:
• Australia was “back in the infrastructure game”, after stepping back from development aid commitments, following the report of a Chinese naval base for Vanuatu.

• On that, he’d published criticism of the late awakening in Australia over the military base story, with commentators there dismissing repeated denials — signs of general disinterest in South Pacific business:

“The average Australian’s conception of Pacific island nations is so limited it makes some of us wonder if they even want to understand. Our voices – and our reality – have been pointedly and repeatedly ignored in the media and in the corridors of power.”

• Australia’s main undertaking, a A$40 million road-building project for the Port Vila city area, had been close to a “high profile debacle”; set back by cyclone damage and other delays, it had lost some 20 pe cent of its nominal value through currency fluctuations, and he believed had been slowed by contractors lacking experience in developing countries.

• Australia had overcome competition to secure a telecommunications equipment upgrade for the country.

• China had been running an expansionary programme, “but they do not always get what they want.”

On corruption:
• All contracts and tenders came under scrutiny, but news sources tended to agree the overall level of corruption had declined.

“Sometimes when decisions are made that you cannot understand, you think that would be something that could explain it.”

• Even with the roads projects, there had to be “murmurings”, but no source had information leading to publication.

• China’s problem for this year would be with the large numbers of its citizens lining up to buy Vanuatu passports through a system of agencies. Mainly useful for evading travel restrictions placed on Chinese passports in several countries, these had been selling for sometimes $A155,000.

• He has made a graphic depicting exponential growth in the passports revenue trade pushing to more than $90 million a year, bringing massive impacts on the small economy if it develops.

On the independence referendum in New Caledonia:

• While the Melanesian countries including Vanuatu were supporting a “Yes” vote in the poll this November, the Kanak independence movement, the FLNKS, did not look to be pressing hard enough for fresh backing.

“There is a bit of national empathy with the three Melanesian independence movements that are active – Bougainville, West Papua and New Caledonia – but not a lot of advocacy here. My impression is there is some indifference among many in the New Caledonia movement, compared to the movement from West Papua, who see a need to be out there and see the media as allies.”

• He said New Caledonia was appearing in regular regional news, such as reports on police actions in demonstrations, and there were signs of some capital being moved out, as with a Vanuatu company obtaining $A5 million dollars from the French territory for financial restructuring.

On stable government and politics in Vanuatu:
• While the government had kept together and weathered no-confidence motions, in the country’s multi-party system it would have to work on taking that through to elections in 2020.

• Already one opposition group had been working systematically to build up a financial base for a strong election campaign. The Foreign Minister, Ralph Regenvanu, with his new Land and Justice Party, had made gains and would be considering it was his time. The incumbent Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, was a quiet performer, but had so far managed to unite divided French speakers to build a political base.

Political journalist and academic Dr Lee Duffield is an editorial board member of Pacific Journalism Review and a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre. This article was first published by the Australian Independent and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the author.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Protests gather force over Nauru ban on ABC from Pacific Forum

ABC ban … “The Nauruan government should not be allowed to dictate who fills the positions in an Australian media pool.” Image: David Robie/PMC

By Mong Palatino

Protests have been gathering force over the Nauru government ban on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from entering the country to cover the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Summit in September.

Nauru accused ABC, which is Australia’s public broadcaster, of biased and false reporting.

The summit is an annual gathering of Oceania’s heads of state, where important matters concerning the region are addressed.

READ MORE: Nauru government’s move against press freedom ‘disgraceful’

Nauru … restricted media access because of “very limited accommodation”. Image: LoopNauru

On July 2, 2018, the Nauru government issued a statement restricting the number of people who can attend the summit because of “very limited accommodation.” But it singled out ABC and explained why it banned the broadcaster:

…no representative from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be granted a visa to enter Nauru under any circumstances, due to this organisation’s blatant interference in Nauru’s domestic politics prior to the 2016 election, harassment of and lack of respect towards our President in Australia, false and defamatory allegations against members of our Government, and continued biased and false reporting about our country. It is our right, as it is the right of every nation, to choose who is allowed to enter.

-Partners-

ABC aired a documentary in 2016 alleging torture and child abuse linked to Australian government’s offshore asylum-seeker processing centers, which are managed by Nauru. It also published a report which alleged that Nauru’s president and some of his ministers received bribery from an Australian phosphate dealer.

Nauru condemned both reports as “racist” and “biased political propaganda”.

The small island nation was a mining site for several decades until phosphate deposits were exhausted in the 1980s. It received aid from Australia and hosted an Australian immigration detention facility.

ABC news director Gaven Morris criticised the decision of Nauru:

The Nauruan Government should not be allowed to dictate who fills the positions in an Australian media pool.

It can hardly claim it is “welcoming the media” if it dictates who that media will be and bans Australia’s public broadcaster.

The Nauru government quickly responded by describing the ABC statement as “arrogant, disrespectful and a further example of the sense of entitlement shown by this activist media organisation.” It added:

We remind the ABC that we – like Australia – have every right to refuse a visa to any person or organisation that we believe is not of good character, and that entry into our country is a privilege not a right. The Australian media do not decide who enters Nauru.

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Nauru’s decision was “regrettable” but refused to intervene on behalf of ABC.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, an Australian network of media workers, said the government should pursue the issue with Nauru officials:

This is an attack on press freedom that our government needs to condemn in the strongest possible terms. Recognising the sovereignty of another nation does not extend to accepting they have the right to prevent free and open reporting.

Australia’s Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery threatened to boycott the event in Nauru:

If the ban is not reversed, the media pool will be disbanded. If one cannot go, none will go.

We oppose the Nauru edict because it is wrong in this instance and because it sets a dangerous precedent. What other Australians might be banned from a similar group by another government in future? We stand for a free press, not a banned one.

Red Ink of Australia’s Nine Network expressed support to ABC:

ABC is our competitor, and a tough one at that, but there is something bigger at stake here than beating a rival.

The ABC ban was also denounced by other media groups in the region. The New Zealand Parliamentary Press Gallery said:

This decision follows already restrictive conditions, limiting the number of journalists who can attend this important regional summit. While infrastructure constrains play a role in limited pooling numbers, we are appalled by this attempt to control media coverage.

Dan McGarry, the media director of Vanuatu Daily Post, explained why the newspaper will not be sending a delegate to Nauru in September:

I instructed the Daily Post’s editor to withdraw our reporter from the Vanuatu media delegation allotted to covering this event.

This isn’t a self-righteous, moralising action. It’s a survival tactic. If we allow ourselves to get into a situation where our ability to report is predicated on how positive our coverage is, then we can’t do our job.

Pacific Island News Association urged Nauru to reconsider its decision to promote media diversity:

The Pacific is on display and can be proud of its media diversity and efforts to strengthen our communities through dialogue and communication.

The International Federation of Journalists said Nauru had set a dangerous precedent:

Governments, leaders and politicians must remember the role of the media, and not use their powers to control and stifle press freedom. The Nauru government is setting a dangerous precedent by barring ABC journalists’ from covering the Pacific Island Forum.

The September event hosted by Nauru is the 49th Pacific Islands Forum.

Pacific Media Watch reports that the New Zealand-based Pacific Media Centre condemned the selective ban by the Nauru government in what it said was an authoritarian affront to media freedom in the region.

Director Professor David Robie, who also criticised Australian hypocrisy over Pacific media freedom, said:

Clearly the Nauru government is determined to gag any independent efforts to speak truth to power …

This is shocking and painfully obvious that Australia has much to hide in the region just like the Nauru government.

Nauru is unranked in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. However, the Nauru ban was criticised at an RSF Asia-Pacific media freedom summit in Paris last week.

Mong Palatino is an activist contributor to Global Voices and a two-term congressman in the Philippine House of Representatives. He blogs at Mongster’s Nest. This article is republished from Global Voices under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media