The growing problem of freedom of expression in the Pacific was highlighted again this week by the continuing ban by the Fijian government of Television New Zealand Pacific Affairs correspondent Barbara Dreaver.
Dreaver is on a ‘blacklist’ of journalists banned from Fiji. In 2008 Dreaver was taken into custody after arriving in Fiji, detained overnight, and refused access to assistance from the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affair and Trade.
Following her detention she was deported back to New Zealand. For the past eight years she has been banned by the post-coup Fiji government, led by former military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama, from entering the country, except for a one hour special dispensation to transit through Nadi International Airport.
Dreaver is the TVNZ’s Pacific Correspondent. NZ Prime Minister, John Key, described Barbara Dreaver as a ‘significant voice’ of the Pacific.
Other journalists also banned from Fiji include former Fairfax reporter Michael Field and Australian journalist Sean Dorney.
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has stated he will not be lifting the ban which he sees as necessary to prevent the "wilful propagation of false information."
The continued ban on Barbara Dreaver is part of an ongoing slip in freedom of expression worldwide. In September 2015, dozens of journalists were banned from entering the Ukraine by President Petro Poroshenko. In April this year Thai journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk was banned from travelling to Finland to attend the UNESCO Press Freedom Day conference in May.
New Zealand currently ranks 5th in the world in the latest World Press Freedom Index. This is well ahead of Australia, which ranks 25th out of 180 countries. New Zealand should take its place as leader in the Pacific on the World Press Freedom Index, to make a clear stance in favour of Barbara Dreaver and the other journalists currently banned from Fiji. In the last year there has been a marked erosion worldwide in freedom of expression.
Freedom of Expression is a right guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 19 of which states, ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’. PEN NZ notes that this right includes the freedom to ‘seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’