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Media ban in PNG reveals conflict between PM and immigration

Julia Gillard and Peter O'Neill

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at the Pacific Islands Forum before Gillard returned to Australia. Image: Henry Yamo/PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch, with Henry Yamo on Rarotonga

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the media ban on foreign journalists entering Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, as reports emerge that Australian Fairfax journalists have been denied visas.

Reports first emerged last week that the Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato had banned journalists from the island while preparations were in place for the centres that will house asylum-seekers under the new arrangement with the Australian government.

The minister released a statement on Wednesday saying: “As the minister responsible, I have instructed all the PNG Heads of Overseas Missions, that all foreign media personnel are not to be granted visas to travel to Manus to cover the issue.”

2012 PIF logoBut yesterday in the Cook Islands, the PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was singing a different tune. He told journalists the ban was over and was only in place while Australian officials were inspecting the island.

“Restrictions only applied during the period when the asylum detention centre facilities were being inspected and assessed by members of the Australian government. We did not want any media interference during this process,” he said.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the move, reporting yesterday that two Australian Fairfax journalists had been granted – and then denied – access.

“Their applications were approved by the PNG prime minister’s office within 24 hours but were then denied by the Immigration and Citizenship Service,” said the report.

“A spokesperson for the Immigration and Citizenship Service subsequently told Fairfax that the foreign minister had banned “the issuance of visas to foreign media personnel until further notice.” Fairfax has appealed.”

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