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10th September 2015
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Pacific press at the Forum meeting –passports returned after some were detained, including Islands Business Editor-in-Chief Samisoni Pareti, and PacNews Editor Makareta Komai, right. Photo / @PNGLoop
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
10th September 2015
Detention of seven Pacific journalists in Papua New Guinea is yet another diplomatic insult to the 4th Estate and needs urgent attention, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"Members of the Pacific Islands Forum are notorious for hosting events that detain, sideline and obstruct news media from doing their jobs," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.
"This latest incident here in PNG sends an especially bad signal when the region is demanding open access to West Papua."
West Papua campaigner Benny Wenda was refused a visa and not allowed entry, despite earlier promises from Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.
"This is a direct denial of freedom of access, movement, and speech on an issue that is the region's most urgent human rights concern," says Gabi.
Pacific journalists arriving in Port Moresby for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting were detained by immigration authorities, had their passports taken, and were forced to pay $1,000 kina (US$360) visa fees before entry.
Gabi says the one good thing that came out of the latest incident was the quick action taken by PNG Foreign Affairs minister
"We commend his decision to stage an inquiry into this incident and call on him to raise this issue with his regional counterparts."
Among those detained was senior Fiji journalist, Islands Business Editor Samisoni Pareti, who posted news of his detention on Facebook.
"Their treatment compares with colleagues from New Zealand and Australia who, as members of official parties to PNG, enjoy visa-free entry," says Gabi.
Treatment of the journalists in PNG raised deeper concerns for those coming from countries under the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which claims to allow visa free travel between members.
PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller says that Pacific journalists have also long raised the point that Australia and New Zealand also charge steep fees, for even transit visas.
"Oceania states cannot hope to benefit from regionalism if they keep denying media access to borders and sources," she says.
"Oceania governments need to encourage Pacific news media to take greater interest in regional affairs, not punish them," says Miller.
"Journalism is not a crime."
Detention of the seven Pacific journalists was headlined by island-focused media including Fiji Times, ABC in Australia, and New Zealand's second biggest news site, Stuff.
The detention was also informally criticised by members of New Zealand's biggest journalism group, the unregistered Kiwi Journalists Association, just over 2,000 strong.
PFF is repeating an earlier call for Pacific governments to host a meeting with regional media to address these and other issues, following up on the successful 1990 convention in Rarotonga, Cook Islands.
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PNG blocks Benny Wenda’s visa bid again – open Pacific plea for West Papua
Forum chairs: West Papua will be given serious thought
PNG Gavman ino laikim West Papua Lida long go long kantri
Permits still needed for Papua reporters
PFF Chair Titi Gabi | GM PNG Loop | Papua New Guinea Mail: PO Box 7776, Boroko, NCD, Papua New Guinea | Mob: (675) 7314 3929 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PFF co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob (684) 258-4197 | Office (684) 633-7793 | Email: email@example.com