PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH PROTESTS OVER KIRIBATI BAN OF AFP JOURNALIST MICHAEL

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* See PMW item 2474 at http://www.pactok.net/docs/pmw/ 

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (November 30, 1999 – Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Pacific Media Watch has protested over a reported ban by the Kiribati Government on a New Zealand-based correspondent for the international news agency Agence France-Presse.

The regional news cooperative PACNEWS on November 29, 1999 reported that the Kiribati Government had banned AFP's Pacific correspondent Michael Field from entering the country because of a series of articles in Pacific Islands Monthly.

However, many of Auckland-based Field's articles on Kiribati were widely published internationally from AFP dispatches.

A statement by PMW said on November 30 that the ban and attacks on Field in the Kiribati Parliament were "harassment and censorship" against a highly experienced foreign correspondent doing his professional job.

"It is rare that journalists of Mr. Field's caliber get to visit smaller Pacific countries such as Kiribati and by imposing a ban, politicians are unfortunately shooting themselves in the foot," said PMW.

Field told PMW on November 30 the move against him was politically motivated and he said that he stood by his reports.

PACNEWS reported that President Teburoro Tito had spoken about the ban on Field during debate in Parliament last week.

On previous occasions, Field has been banned in Tonga and he was also in 1997 denied entry into the Fiji Islands in circumstances later described by officials as a mistake.

The President was reported to have claimed Field's articles in the Suva-based Pacific Islands Monthly were "biased and sensational and reflected Kiribati in a bad light."

Field in the July issue of the magazine highlighted major development and environmental problems in South Tarawa and also moves to block a new non-government radio station - action branded by the former South Pacific Forum Secretary-General, Ieremia Tabai, as "censorship."

Tabai is a former President of Kiribati.

"The state of the environment was dramatic and as a journalist I felt obliged to write about it, particularly as the plight of atolls is becoming part of a world focus," Field told PMW.

"I stand by my observations, and in the case of the state of the beaches I have photographs as well.

"The action against me is, however, in large part motivated by the political debate sparked in Kiribati following my visit to the Chinese satellite base on Tarawa and my subsequent report in Pacific Islands Monthly which provoked fierce internal rows.

"I also reported the government's move to close up a radio station owned by an opposition politician and former Forum Secretary General, Ieremia Tabai. He maintains the action was censorship."

Field said he had not been advised officially or unofficially about the ban.

He added that the ban augured badly for journalists and regional media coverage as next year's Forum was due to be hosted by Kiribati.

Title -- 2476 KIRIBATI: Pacific Media Watch protests over Kiribati ban Date -- 30 November 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW, 30/11/99 Copyright – PMW Status – Unabridged

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