As Nauru prepares to host the Pacific Island Forum in September, it announced on Monday, July 2, that it would block the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from attending and covering the Forum. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) have condemned the decision as a blatant attack on press freedom.
A statement by the Nauru Government on Monday said it has blocked the ABC from covering the Forum, and is refusing to issue its journalist visas because of allegations of interference in its politics, bias and false reporting. In response, ABC’s director of news, analysis and investigations, Gaven Morris, said: “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.”
On Tuesday, the Nauru Government issued a follow-up statement, stating: “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,” it said. “The Australian media do not decide who enters Nauru.”
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, said the decision by the Nauru Government was regrettable, but that it’s a matter for Nauru.
MEAA Media section president, Macrus Strom, said: “Politicians, wherever they are, must accept the role of the media to report and scrutinise those in power. The Forum is a crucial gathering. It comes at a very important time. It is important that its deliberations and discussions are widely reported to the people who live in the region. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he 'regrets' the ABC is being barred from reporting on the Forum but that ultimately it is a matter for the government of Nauru. That is simply not good enough. 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.”
The Australian Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery condemned the ban, while Vanuatu’s Daily Post said it would no longer cover the Forum.
The IFJ said: “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. We call for solidarity with our colleagues in the region to demand the ban be revoked and press freedom guaranteed.”
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