Nauru ABC ban brazen attempt to suppress critical coverage – Amnesty

Picture: RNZ / Brad White

Amnesty International says the Nauru government’s decision to ban Australia’s ABC from the Pacific Islands Forum summit is a brazen attempt to suppress critical coverage.

The Nauru government yesterday issued a statement saying Australia’s public broadcaster was banned from coming to the island country, which is hosting this year’s Forum leaders’ summit in September.

Amnesty International’s senior director of global operations, Minar Pimple, said hosting a regional event should come with the responsibility to open itself to the region’s media.

Mr Pimple said Nauru should not be able to dictate who should and shouldn’t attend, nor control what journalists can and can’t report on.

Nauru’s government blamed ABC for interfering in domestic politics, harassing its president, as well as bias and false reporting among other allegations.

As a result the government said the broadcaster’s journalists would not be granted a visa under any circumstances.

Mr Pimple said Nauru’s arrangements to hold Australia’s refugees was a matter of journalistic and public interest, and that going to great lengths to keep the ABC out and control journalists’ movements was telling.

He said the decision is a clear attempt to suppress critical coverage of Nauru’s government and its inhumane treatment of refugees.

Speaking to local media, Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said his country had to respect Nauru’s right to refuse ABC journalists a visa.

However he said it would be “regrettable” if the ABC was disallowed to attend the forum summit.

“So we respect their sovereignty but obviously we’d prefer to have events like this open to all the media,” Mr Turnbull said.

Late on Tuesday, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat issued a statement in response to the Nauru decision.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters said he wanted to find out more information.

“For the Forum to work, we need press freedom in the same way we all believe as a forum group of countries in freedom of the press,” he said.

“Before I rush to public statements and megaphone diplomacy, I’d want to find out exactly what’s going on here.”

Meanwhile, echoing outrage among media advocates around the region, press galleries in both Australia and New Zealand condemned Nauru’s decision.

The head of the Australian press gallery, David Crow, described it as an appalling breach of media freedoms.

The chair of New Zealand’s press gallery, Stacey Kirk, said Nauru’s decision was a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, and followed already restrictive reporting conditions for the summit.

ABC’s head of news said they were outraged by Nauru’s move, and did not intend to vacate their position in the media pool applying for limited spots toattend the September summit.