Nauru blocks ABC access to Pacific Islands Forum, arguing ‘blatant interference’ in domestic politics

MELBOURNE, 03 JULY 2018 (ABC ONLINE) – The Nauruan Government is refusing the ABC access to a regional forum later this year, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be attending.

The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is the region’s leading political and economic dialogue, and will be held in September.

In a statement posted online on Monday, the Nauruan Government argued it was within its right to “choose who is allowed to enter”.

“It should be noted 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,” the statement said.

ABC News Director Gaven Morris responded, saying the broadcaster “vigorously defends our role in doing independent reporting on our region”.

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

The Nauruan Government has criticised the ABC in the past for its reporting on the island’s asylum seeker processing, which is funded by the Australian Government, and for airing allegations the nation’s president Baron Waqa and some of his ministers were bribed by an Australian businessman.

The Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra described Nauru’s decision as an “outrageous restriction on press freedom”.

“The Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery was consulted to select a group of three journalists to cover the event,” President and Fairfax chief political correspondent David Crowe said.

“The ABC volunteered to take one of these positions. It did so in a way that assists all Australian media organisations, given most could not be part of the unusually small pool.

“All Australians should be dismayed that the Government of Nauru seeks to exclude an Australian media organisation in this way.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, had said there should not be problems with foreign media accessing the event.

“I understand that conversation has been that journalists will be allowed in,” she told the ABC the World programme last week.