Australian media outlet barred from Pacific regional forum

Expression

On 2nd July 2018, the Nauru government announced it would bar the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) news outlet from entering into the country, to cover the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) that will take place in September 2018. The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organisation that aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean.

In a statement, the Nauru authorities stated ‘that 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.’

In response to this, on 5th July the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) stated that:

“The role of the media is to hold those in power to account with free and fair reporting. However, decisions such as these violate the basic universal principles of press freedom and only go to harm the image of Nauru on the world stage…the IFJ is concerned that such a refusal to grant a visa to a member of the Australian media pool sends a terrible signal internationally about press freedom in Nauru – particularly at the very time when the world’s attention will be focused on the work of the Pacific Island leaders as guests of your country.”

As a result, the Australian Parliamentary Press Gallery has announced a boycott of the Pacific Islands Forum and has disbanded a media pool that was due to cover it.

Nauru usually imposes a non-refundable visa fee of USD 6,089 on foreign journalists entering the country, which has been waived for this forum. According to Amnesty International, this has 'severely restricted media freedom and hampered independent scrutiny of Nauru’s policies and practices,' especially of the Australia-run refugee detention centres on the island, where there has been widespread reports of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.