(PINA/IFEX) - On 29 November 1999, the regional news service Pacnews reported that Kiribati has barred New Zealand journalist Michael Field from the country. It said President Teburoro Tito had told parliament the government banned Field because of his articles published in the regional magazine "Pacific Islands Monthly".
Field is an Agence France-Presse journalist based in New Zealand who regularly travels in the Pacific Islands and reports on regional issues. He is already prevented from entering the kingdom of Tonga. That country's government routinely refuses him entry (see IFEX alert of 24 June 1998).
Field's reports in "Pacific Islands Monthly" highlighted major development problems in South Tarawa, the main atoll on Kiribati, a central Pacific nation of 84,000. He also wrote about efforts to block the directors of Newair FM, who are trying to set up Kiribati's first non-government radio station (see IFEX alert of 21 September 1999), and questions about the role of a Chinese research station in Kiribati. Tito called Field's articles biased and sensational and said they reflected Kiribati in a bad light.
PINA has previously appealed to the Tongan government to allow Field into the country and to respect Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of information and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Efforts to set up Kiribati's first non-government radio station led to the station's directors being charged with importing radio equipment without a licence and establishing a radio station without a licence. At present the Kiribati government-owned Broadcasting and Publications Authority operates the only radio station, Radio Kiribati, and publishes the country's only newspaper, the weekly "Te Uekera" (see IFEX alert of 21 September 1999).