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Refugee and journalist: Who are the 'infogees' in Oceania?

Protesters chant at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Sydney on 10 November 2017, as they call on the ruling Liberal coalition government to bring back 600 refugees from an Australian detention centre in Papua New Guinea
Protesters chant at a Liberal Party fundraiser in Sydney on 10 November 2017, as they call on the ruling Liberal coalition government to bring back 600 refugees from an Australian detention centre in Papua New Guinea

WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum's Facebook page on 28 January 2018.

Governments need to recognise a new category of refugee for the information age, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"Journalists, whistleblowers and activists desperately need new options for keeping their urgent messages alive," says PFF Chair Monica Miller.

"Creating a new category of refugee - what we are calling infogees - ensures that people who are speaking out for all the right reasons are not silenced."

Across the region, journalists face job loss and worse for exposing corruption and injustice, says Miller, speaking from American Samoa. Governments need to recognise the rights of 'infogees' as essential, says Miller.

"Journalists, whistleblowers and activists desperately need new options for keeping their urgent messages alive"


West Papua

PFF co-Chair Alexander Rheeney notes that West Papua is the most dangerous place in the Pacific for people to speak out.

"People who expose corruption in West Papua suffer assassination, disappearance, assaults, arrests, torture and prison", says Rheeney, speaking from Papua New Guinea. "Losing life and liberty is a high price to pay for fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression."

Rheeney says that those suffering death threats and job loss should be able to seek refuge in safer countries to continue their work.


Papua New Guinea

From Palau, PFF co-Chair Bernadette Carreon notes that Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani is the best known case of a journalist fleeing persecution, only to suffer detention as a refugee in the Pacific.

"Australian treatment of refugees has been inhumane, and breaks commitments to Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

"Infogees such as Boochani should be seen as invaluable sources of information about the world around us, not punished for seeking liberty."

Boochani fled Iran after being arrested and interrogated by paramilitary intelligence officers investigating his reporting for a Kurdish language magazine, Werya.

PFF is calling for a clear resettlement policy that makes use of migrant skills to keep information from home countries alive.

PFF points to an informal precedent already set by Australia and New Zealand for an 'infogee' category back in the 1980s, when pro-democracy migrants were forced to flee Fiji coups.

PFF notes MEAA, the Australian Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance describing Boochani's reporting as being within the "finest traditions of journalism."

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