17 Dec 2008

Fiji media says NZ acting high commissioner will be expelled

11:28 am on 17 December 2008

A Fiji official says the acting New Zealand High Commissioner Caroline McDonald will be expelled over Wellington's visa restrictions following the 2006 military coup.

The official has told the website Fijivillage this follows last night's telephone call between the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

An announcement is expected later today.

The official says Commodore Bainimarama has stressed that Caroline McDonald and the staff of the New Zealand High Commission are the ones who have been giving reports to their New Zealand counterparts about those who are related to the military and the interim government and whose visas have been rejected.

According to the senior government official, Commodore Bainimarama stressed to the New Zealand Foreign Minister that if sanctions were to continue, that they must only be on the military and the interim government members but not their families.

The New Zealand government has said it won't change its policy.

It says it wants to keep talking with Fiji's government, as the diplomatic row over New Zealand's travel sanctions continues.

The Foreign Minister Murray McCully won't comment on the details of the stand-off but says matters have been under discussion for sometime.

"We are trying to be constructive about those discussions, I've tried to convey as clearly as I can New Zealand's position and I tried to make sure that it is well understood as possible but there is still work in progress there and we will see how it plays out."

Meanwhile, a Fiji human rights commissioner says the expulsion of the TVNZ journalist, Barbara Dreaver, shows yet again that there's no media freedom in the country.

After arriving in Fiji on Monday, TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver was taken into custody and then deported yesterday.

Fiji's interim immigration minister told local media that Ms Dreaver didn't have clearance from the information department.

The interim government says foreign reporters must now seek permission to set foot on Fiji soil.

But Fiji removed its visa requirement for foreign journalists in 1993 and it is not known when the new restrictions came into force.

Shamima Ali says the reason given for Ms Dreaver's expulsion is a joke.

She says all journalists are facing tough times in the country.

I know as a frequent commentator that the media censors itself. Comments that are in any way derogatory to the interim regime are often censored or cut off. And talking to media people, there's a fear of what they say and how they say it.

Shamima Ali says this censorship is getting worse by the day.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, says Ms Dreaver's expulsion was unacceptable.