Nauru, PNG, Fiji criticised for obstructing freedom

Civic freedoms in three Pacific nations are under threat, according to the international watchdog group, Civicus. Picture: RNZ

LONDON, 29 NOVEMBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – Civic freedoms in three Pacific nations are under threat, according to the international watchdog group, Civicus.

The watchdog, which represents civil society groups around the world, has released its annual ‘People Power Under Attack’ report which tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in nearly 200 countries.

It downgraded Papua New Guinea and Nauru to join Fiji in the ‘obstructed’ category.

Nauru’s rating is due to increasing restrictions on press freedom in the country.

Civicus said this hampered independent scrutiny of Nauru’s policies and practices, especially of the Australian-run refugee detention centres on the island, where there have been widespread reports of abuse.

In PNG, media freedom continues to deteriorate with journalists subject to harassment and attacks because of their reporting, it said.

The report condemned censorship it said was prevalent in parts of the Pacific and pointed to governments such as Fiji’s that tried to control the public narrative by interfering with the media.

However, there are seven countries in the Pacific deemed to be in Civicus’ ‘open’ category, although it said freedoms continued to be impinged in two other Pacific countries in its ‘narrowed’ category.

And it noted improvements such as Solomon Islands’ new Whistleblowers Protection Act, which protects activists exposing corruption.

Civicus also said land rights, environmental and anti-corruption activists faced threats and arrests in the Pacific.

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