5 Jul 2018

Nauru's ABC stance condemned by Pacific Freedom Forum

7:17 pm on 5 July 2018

The Nauru government's refusal to allow journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to cover the Pacific Forum Leaders summit has been condemned by the Pacific media watchdog.

Nauru's President Baron Divavesi Waqa (L) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Nauru's President Baron Waqa Photo: Yomiuri

The Pacific Freedom Forum said the reasons Nauru had given did not justify the ban.

Its chair Monica Miller said the PFF was calling on the Nauru government to reconsider this stance, and use the public complaints mechanisms to raise its concerns.

Ms Miller said the summit gives the appearance of unity, but stopping journalists from one Forum member covering the summit is divisive.

The Nauru government claimed it is exercising a sovereign right, but Ms Miller said the summit is a regional event and the ABC is the public broadcaster of a Forum member.

The organisation also wants the Forum secretariat to appeal to the hosts to drop the ban.

A co-chair of the PFF, Bernadette Carreon, said small island nations which cannot send their reporters to regional events rely on the ABC for Pacific news.

She said journalists should be able to attend important regional events like the Pacific Islands Forum and selectively barring reporters from covering the summit is not acceptable.

Nauru ignores appeal from Australian PM

Nauru has ignored an appeal from Australia's prime minister to allow the ABC into the country for the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Malcolm Turnbull's government had lobbied Nauru through diplomatic channels for weeks in the hope of securing the ABC a place at the summit.

But Nauru ignored the efforts, on Monday releasing an inflammatory statement banning the ABC from the island "under any circumstances," apparently for unfair coverage.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Photo: AFP

The ABC - which has reported extensively on Nauru and Australia's detention centres there - was due to fill one of the positions in the three-person pool that will accompany Mr Turnbull in September.

In the wake of the announcement, the head of Australia's parliamentary press gallery has foreshadowed a boycott, although not every media outlet has shown support for the idea.

Meanwhile, the editor of the Samoa Observer said the Nauru government seemed to be going back on a promise made during last year's Forum by banning the ABC.

Mata'afa Keni Lesa said the ban was concerning and disappointing.

"I think any serious media organisation would be very concerned at what's happened. Now here at the Observer we had the Nauru President [Baron Waqa] I think he was here last year during the Pacific Islands Forum and he was asked a question about media access and he assured everyone that there shouldn't be any problems.

"All the media organisations will be welcome to Nauru for the Forum. Now the fact they have gone ahead and done that [the ban] - is very concerning."

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