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Fiji lifts media ban on three foreign journalists

"We do not want to see Fiji go down the same path as Nauru and continue to restrict access, using accreditation as an excuse."

This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum's Facebook page on 28 October 2016.

Lifting of a media ban on three foreign journalists is welcome, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum - but plans for accreditation raise new concerns.

"Journalists enjoy free access to many countries around the world," says PFF Chair Monica Miller. "PFF calls for Fiji to allow free access as proof of their return to full democracy."

Unofficial

Fiji should avoid unofficially replacing an official ban against at least three foreign journalists, says Miller. "Our concern is that the Fiji government will use plans for so-called accreditation as a new excuse to deny entry," she says.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama upheld the ban for years, despite wide-ranging concerns about human rights from Australia and New Zealand, especially freedoms of speech.

Welcome

As late as June this year, Bainimarama rejected a call from New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to lift the ban on three foreign journalists - Sean Dorney, Michael Field and Barbara Dreaver.

"PFF welcomes the change of policy from the current Fiji government," says Miller. "It is refreshing to hear the Banimarama administration is now allowing all not just some foreign journalists in to Fiji.

"It's a sign that Fiji is taking steps towards restoring access by journalists into Fiji, the way it was before."

'Usual Manner'

Field and Dreaver from New Zealand, along with Australian colleague Dorney, were banned after 2006 coups led by Bainimarama, the former armed forces chief.

Lifting of the ban was announced in a statement released by the Fiji Ministry of Information nearly two weeks ago. The statement said any journalist is free to visit the country and report without restriction after they are accredited in the "usual manner" by the Department of Information.

Accreditation Excuse?

PFF is seeking more information about the accreditation process for visiting journalists, including from the Department of Information. "We do not want to see Fiji go down the same path as Nauru and continue to restrict access, using accreditation as an excuse."

"We are hopeful that any accreditation process for foreign journalists be simple and fast," says Miller. "Or even better - that journalists be accorded the same treatment as other professionals visiting Fiji; that they be allowed into the country without going through an extra layer of scrutiny."

Entry requirements for journalists vary widely across Oceania.

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