Nauru, the host of this year’s Pacific Islands Forum, has barred Australia’s ABC from covering the annual summit. A government statement charged the ABC with blatant bias.
Much media coverage of Nauru has been critical. Australian media, including the ABC, has reported on high level corruption, election irregularities and the on-going prosecution of much of the political opposition. But by far the most sensitive issue is the notorious detention camp where Australia houses hundreds of the people who’ve tried to reach the country by sea.
In response to its bad press, Nauru imposed a non-refundable fee of more than 6,000 dollars to apply for a journalist visa – with no guarantee that it will be approved. The policy has been described a blatant attempt to suppress news coverage and, if so, it’s worked. Very few journalists have been allowed to visit.
The visa fee has been lifted for September’s Pacific Island Forum, but media coverage will be limited by lack of space on the tiny island. Australia, by far the largest member of the Forum, was allowed just three spots.
ABC News Director Gaven Morris said that the ABC would not give up its place. “The Nauruan government should not be allowed to dictate who fills the positions in an Australian media pool,” Morris said.
The Nauruan government dismissed that as “arrogant and disrespectful.” Adding “It is our right, as it is the right of every nation, to choose who is allowed to enter.”
Some media organizations are calling for a boycott. Dan McGarry of Vanuatu’s Daily Post told the ABC he would not be going. He said “The implication here is that anybody who provides negative coverage is going to be treated exactly the same way as the ABC.”