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Nz Minister Supports Banned Journalist

SUVA: New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff has called on Kiribati to lift its ban on Agence France-Presse correspondent Michael Field attending next month's Pacific Forum, according to news reports.

Kiribati banned New Zealand and Pacific correspondent Field after he wrote last year of extensive pollution and sewage on the main island of Tarawa, where the 16-nation forum will be held.

An AFP dispatch said a report by Field on a Chinese satellite monitoring base on Tarawa also apparently upset the government.

Subsequently Kiribati declared Field an "undesirable immigrant" and a request that he be allowed to cover the Pacific Forum on October 27-30 was rejected by the forum's media coordinator Rikiaua Takeke on 5 September 2000.

Field had been placed on a blacklist in Fiji following the 1987 coups although he did not report in the country at the time. This was lifted in 1997.

He has also been banned from Tonga.

According to AFP, Goff wrote to Kiribati President Teburoro Tito, urging him to reconsider the ban.

A New Zealand Herald report on September 9 quoted Goff as saying: "I know Mike. He can be a journalist who doesn't worry too much about the sensibilities of the country or the peoples that he writes about. That is his right.

"Obviously I respect the right of Kiribati to issue or not issue a visa to any individual. We ourselves have that right in this country, but we also quite strongly believe in the freedom of the press."

In a letter to the Kiribati president on September 8, Pacific Media Watch said it was "dismayed" by the decision to ban Field. It said it was an "unfortunate precedent" to ban a journalist from the Forum.

PMW reminded the Kiribati government of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of expression and the free flow of information.

It also urged Kiribati to lift the ban on Field.

The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres media freedom organisation also condemned the ban on Field.

According to the NZ Herald, Field said: "For the record, the bans and the abuse are not something that keeps me awake at night. They are just part of the job."

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org

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