ABC vows to fight Nauru Pacific forum ban

MELBOURNE, 03 JULY 2018 (AAP) – The ABC will fight a Nauruan government decision to refuse its journalists access to the annual Pacific Islands Forum because of “blatant interference” in the country’s domestic politics.

Nauru has announced no-one from the ABC will be granted a visa for the September forum, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will attend.

“No representative from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be granted a visa to enter Nauru under any circumstances,” it said in a statement on Monday.

The Nauruan government said the decision was due to the ABC’s blatant interference in domestic politics before the country’s 2016 election and lack of respect towards its president.

It also said the ABC had made false and defamatory allegations against members of Nauru’s government and engaged in biased reporting about the country.

ABC News Director Gaven Morris said Nauru should not be allowed to dictate who fills the positions in an Australian media pool.

“The ABC does not intend to vacate our position in the media pool covering the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru,” he said in a statement.

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

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong labelled the decision disappointing, and called on Turnbull to stress the importance of press freedom to Nauru.

“I think Australians do expect Turnbull to stand up for the freedom of the press and to stand up for the national broadcaster,” Senator Wong told ABC radio.

Federal Press Gallery president David Crowe said the ban was an outrageous restriction on press freedom.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade called Nauru’s decision was “regrettable”.

“However it is the sovereign right of every country to decide who enters its borders,” a DFAT spokesperson said.

Amnesty International said the ban was a “brazen” attempt to suppress coverage of the treatment of asylum seekers in the Australian-funded offshore processing centre.

In response to the ABC ban, the Vanuatu Daily Post said it would not cover the event.

“We were offered a spot. We will not be accepting,” its media director Dan McGarry tweeted.

“All of us or none of us.”

The forum will be held on the tiny Micronesian island state in the central Pacific from September 1 to 9.

Representatives from 30 countries, including 18 forum nation members, will be attending.

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