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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (December 2, 1999 – AFP)---An Agence France-Presse correspondent has been barred from the central Pacific state of Kiribati, the official Kiribati Gazette said.

New Zealand-based reporter Michael Field was banned from entering the republic, according to the notice signed by President Teburoro Tito.

Although the notice was dated August 6, the Gazette has only just been published.

It said Field, who spent 10 days on Tarawa in May, was an undesirable immigrant and therefore "the said (Field) is prohibited from entering the Republic of Kiribati until further notice."

Tito raised the issue in parliament last week according to government-owned Radio Kiribati.

Tito said Field had written "untruths" about development problems in the Micronesian state. Among other things, he highlighted the problem of accumulating sewerage in Betio, a Tarawa islet.

An article on the existence of a little known Chinese satellite monitoring base on the island had also raised concern in Kiribati.

Pierre Lesourd, AFP's Hong Kong-based regional director for Asia and the Pacific, expressed concern at the reported ban imposed on Field by the Kiribati authorities and asked for an explanation for the move.

In a letter to President Tito, Lesourd noted that neither Field nor AFP have been officially informed of the ban and said "we sincerely hope that you have not taken any such action impinging on press freedom."

The Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (Journalists Without Borders) also sent a letter to the Kiribati leader protesting the move.

"Reporters Sans Frontières is worried about such a disproportionate reaction against a foreign journalist who had only reported what he had seen," it said.



Reporters Sans Frontières Letter To President Tito

Mr. Teburoro Tito President of Kiribati Bairiki Republic of Kiribati

Paris, 1st December 1999

Your Excellency,

Reporters Sans Frontières, an independent organisation for the defence of press freedom worldwide, wishes to protest against the exclusion of Michael Field, an Agence France-Press (AFP) journalist based in New Zealand, from your country.

According to our information, on 29 November your government barred Michael Field from entering Kiribati.

The AFP journalist said his problems began after one of his reports was published in the regional magazine Pacific Islands Monthly in July. The story concerned "the government's move to close up a radio station owned by an opposition political and former Forum Secretary General, Ieremia Tabai".

This radio is still not being allowed to operate. The journalist also wrote that, travelling in South Tarawa (the main atoll on Kiribati), he "felt obliged to talk about the dramatic state of the environment and particularly of the beaches".

Reporters Sans Frontières is worried about such disproportionate reaction against a foreign journalist who had only reported what he had seen.

RSF reminds you that he was exercising his right to inform the public, which is guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Our organisation notes that Michael Field had not been advised officially of this ban.

Finally, RSF urges you to lift the ban and allow him to travel and work freely in your country.

We thank you for your attention and would welcome your comments.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Ménard General Secretary

Reporters sans frontiers 5, rue Geoffroy-Marie - 75009 Paris – France Tél: (33) 1 44 83 84 84 Fax: (33) 1 45 23 11 51 E-mail: rsf@rsf.fr  Web: www.rsf.fr 


Title -- 2479 KIRIBATI: RSF protests over Michael Field ban Date -- 2 December 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch

Source -- Reporters Sans Fronti̬res (Paris), 1/12/99 Status РUnabridged

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