23 Apr 2019

Attempt to expel FSM journalist linked to China criticism

12:04 pm on 23 April 2019

A journalist in the Federated States of Micronesia has linked her scrutiny of Chinese investment to an attempt by traditional leaders in Yap to expel her.

Joyce McClure's

Joyce McClure's Photo: Twitter/ Joyce McClure

In late March, nine members of a Yap Council of Chiefs signed a letter calling on the state to intervene over Joyce McClure's allegedly false news reports.

The letter accused her and her employer, the Pacific Island Times, of fuelling anti-Asian sentiment in Yap, but did not elaborate further.

Ms McClure said she wishes the chiefs would clarify because most of what she has written is uncontroversial.

She said she suspects the chiefs have taken issue with her sharing of Facebook posts critical of China's presence in Yap.

"They have been what I call cautionary tales about what the Chinese government is doing in terms of their Belt and Road initiative. Because in fact developers are actively attempting to come into Yap and have been for many years."

In a statement provided to RNZ Pacific on Thursday, the Pacific Island Times editor-in-chief, Mar-Vic Cagurangan, said the attempt by the Council of Pilung, which represents the inner Yap islands, was "an attempt to silence a journalist and curtail freedom of the press.

"Sending Ms McClure out of the country would set a dangerous precedent that puts anyone in FSM - not just the media - in danger of being punished for speaking up. It can be an effective tool of harassment and intimidation to suppress free speech and free press. But to quote Rappler's Maria Ressa, 'We will continue to hold the line.'"

The Colonia-based Council of Pilung did not immediately answer calls seeking comment.

The Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) also condemned the Council of Pilung's letter.

"In this case we've found it disturbing to see no such basis for allegations made by leaders who should know better than to ask their lawmakers to dole out punishment without any evidence, and in the same breath issue media guidelines on how the public can be informed," said co-chair Monica Miller in a statement on Sunday.

In its March letter, the Council of Pilung also said Yap State's official website and information releases "provides only accurate and factual news feed."

The Council alleged this was something Ms McClure "lacks vehemently in her reports to the public, hence how she makes money on fast-fake news feeds on all mediums."

The PFF said the chiefs' endorsement of state media had implied it was the only credible source of information to the public.

"The document we have seen raises more questions over the agenda behind the signatures, and whoever reads it has to look deeper into the reasons prompting leaders to endorse a document which wants a journalist kicked out of Micronesia simply for doing her job," said Bernadette Carreon, a co-chair of PFF and a contributor at the Pacific Island Times.