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Journalist Calls Ban 'Disturbing'

SUVA (PMW): An international news agency journalist who has had his ban from Kiribati for the South Pacific Forum meeting later this month reaffirmed describes the cited reason as "disturbing and irresponsible".

According to a report from the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) published in Fiji's Daily Post on 8 October 2000, the Kiribati Government has upheld its ban on New Zealander Michael Field, Auckland-based Pacific correspondent for Agence France-Presse.

But the government said the news agency could send any journalist other than Field.

PINA cited media coordinator Tikiau Takeke in Kiribati's presidential office as saying Field was barred from the forum on October 27-30 because he was "responsible for writing unfair, untrue and derogatory" stories about Kiribati and its people.

"The ban is also made for his own security since many locals may attempt violence against him while in Kiribati," Takeke was quoted as saying.

Field, currently in the Fiji Islands capital of Suva, told Pacific Media Watch on October 8 that he found it "disturbing and irresponsible that a government would cite violence against a journalist by its own nationals as a justification for this anti-democratic action".

"If journalists cannot carry out their work without the threat of violence, and without the comfort of knowing a state will obey its own laws, then we are all the poorer for it," he said.

Field has been widely regarded as being the most experienced international news agency staff journalist covering the annual forum political meetings, having reported them for the past decade.

The forum has never previously banned any journalist from covering it. But Field is also barred from Tonga.

Last year, Field visited Kiribati and wrote about the extensive pollution, sewage and litter on the main island of Tarawa, where the forum will be held.

A report on a Chinese satellite monitoring base on Tarawa, little known outside the region, also apparently upset the government.

+++niuswire

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


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