A journalist in New Zealand who was reporting on the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru was detained for several hours for interviewing an Iranian.
Moreover, police in the South Pacific Island also revoked her media accreditation because she met refugees without seeking permission.
Barbara Dreaver is a Pacific Correspondent for TVNZ covering issues both in the pacific region and in New Zealand. According to authorities, she breached the terms of her visa that reportedly restrict her to reporting on the forum.
Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Ocean. This year the host of the forum was Nauru.
The forum which was attended by 18 member governments, comprising Pacific states plus Australia and New Zealand, runs until September 6.
The island closely controls access for foreign journalists and is particularly sensitive regarding asylum seekers sent there by Australia. It has already banned Australia’s public broadcaster from sending reporters to the island after critical coverage.
Human rights activists wanted authorities of the island to put the issue of refugees on the forum agenda. However, government officials made it clear the topic wouldn’t be discussed.
Dreaver said she was speaking to a refugee outside a restaurant when police arrived and detained her for three hours.
“The police showed up and said I was breaching my visa conditions and I was taken to the police station. I think it probably shows that things are a wee bit sensitive here, in fact a lot sensitive,” she said.
The correspondent added that she explained to the police that the island’s media officials told her she could interview refugees as long as she gets permission and doesn’t go in the camps. She further said she didn’t breach the terms on her visa because it has been part of the forum.
She added, “They stripped me of my Pacific Forum accreditation, took the footage off my camera, and told me I'm not allowed to report on refugees until I leave.”
On the other hand a statement was also issued by the government that stated Dreaver “voluntarily accompanied” police to the station and was in breach of her visa because she didn’t go through “proper channels” to seek permission.
“This journalist did not follow procedures ... police and security agencies are genuinely concerned about safety and security risks should media take it upon themselves to enter refugee residential settlements where emotions are high,” read the statement.
Australia is notorious for its “boat turnback” policy that forces asylum-seekers arriving on Australian shores to return or seek refugee somewhere else, mainly in detention camps like Nauru or another one on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
The country is among the several developed countries that have barely done anything to deal with the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. In fact, the government has been spending millions in attempts to illegally return the refugees and discourage them from embarking on a journey to the country.
Several international organizations, including the United Nations, regularly call out the Australian government over its alleged treatment of refugees but to no avail.
Scores of asylum seekers are still suffering widespread torture and violations of human rights on the island. A recently released cache of leaked documents, compiled by former health care and immigration workers-turned-whistleblowers, detailed how children at the island are facing a life-threatening crisis.
The report, provided to Australian broadcaster ABC, claimed a “shocking spate of self-harm incidents” among young refugees detained on Nauru.
In 2016, the United States and Australia reached an agreement to resettle Nauru refugees. However, as of May 2018, more than 900 asylum seekers are still reportedly present on the island.
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