Nauru MPs suspended for talking to media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins with the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in expressing its concern over the indefinite suspension of three members of Nauru’s opposition after they made critical statements to foreign media.


Former foreign minister Dr Kieren Keke, Roland Kun and Mathew Batsiua were suspended from Nauru’s 19 member parliament following a series of interviews with foreign media outlets in which they expresses their concerns over Nauru’s housing of asylum seekers diverted from Australia. The three also voiced their dissent over the recent deportation of Nauru’s only resident magistrate and the cancellation of chief justice Geoffrey Eames’ visa.


The Pacific Freedom Forum’s Chair Titi Gabi has called on the government to immediately lift the suspensions.


Gabi said: "Constitutional freedoms of speech include the right for citizens to speak to any news media, anywhere, at any time. The government in Nauru is deeply mistaken to suggest that elected representatives lack these same rights."


The PFF’s co-Chair Monica Miller said: "Governments in Nauru have long denied open access to the public broadcaster. Lack of scrutiny has contributed to a situation where the government apparently believes it can do no wrong."


The foreign minister of Nauru’s neighbour Australia echoed the sentiments of the PFF.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: "I encourage the government of Nauru to uphold the fundamental values of a robust democracy, including freedom of speech. Parliamentarians are encouraged to engage in robust political debate for it is the contest of ideas that underpins democracy." The IFJ calls on the Nauru government to heed the calls from the PFF and the Australian government and allow all citizens the right to express their views to both local and foreign media. The IFJ said: “It is crucial to any nation’s democratic process that elected members of parliament be allowed the right to talk to their constituents through the media.Holding a government to account is the role of both the fourth estate and a government’s opposition and these three members should not be punished for doing exactly that.” In January, the IFJ reported on Nauru increasing the cost of single-entry visas for media by 4,000% to $AUD8000. The exorbitant visa charge continues to stand in direct contrast to the standard tourist visa which costs $100.