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I was granted special dispensation to touch down in Nadi, Fiji, for an hour this week – eight years after the post-coup Fiji government banned me from visiting.

But it still isn’t right for everyone.

Remnants of the military dictatorship still remain – and some journalists who specialise in the Pacific, including myself as TVNZ’s Pacific Correspondent, are still banned.

Why? What on earth are they afraid of?

Fiji held its democratic elections in September 2014; the country made its choice, and is now intent on letting the world know it is free and fair.

Yet it persists in maintaining some undemocratic actions.

Restricting, banning and persecuting media is in every military dictator’s handbook – I get that.

Hasn’t Fiji moved on?
But has or has not Fiji moved on from this?

Being locked up in a detention centre for the night, being threatened and having the Geneva Convention breached when a New Zealand government representative was denied access to me was unpleasant.

But that was in 2008 – eight years ago.

From a personal perspective I was born, went to school, worked and lived in the Pacific – and I have close family in Fiji, as I do in many Pacific countries.

I am half I-Kiribati, which means I cannot travel home unless I travel with the Air Force as commercial flights are through Fiji.

From a professional perspective, the ban means it’s not just Fiji I can’t report from, but also Kiribati and Tuvalu which both count on flights from Fiji.

I have strong professional relationships with both the governments of Kiribati and Tuvalu – both of which face huge challenges with rising sea levels and isolation – and want their stories told.

Neither country is impressed
Neither country is impressed that I am restrained from travelling there.

As part of a ministerial delegation this week I went to those countries, and was granted “special permission” to transit for one hour through Nadi International Airport.

The people of Fiji deserve to have their stories told no matter who they are or who they vote for.

Journalists should not be banned in any democratic country.

The fact that the New Zealand delegation headed by Prime Minister John Key going to Fiji tomorrow cannot include the national broadcaster’s Pacific Correspondent is a disgrace.

Other journalists banned from Fiji include former Pacific correspondents for the ABC and Fairfax, Sean Dorney and Michael Field. This commentary is republished from TVNZ’s website with the permission of the author Barbara Dreaver.

Pacific Media Watch report

Watch the TVNZ “touchdown” video




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