ontacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or email@example.com; Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairman, 406/542-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org
INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Republic of Nauru today urging the country not to ban a journalist from covering next week's Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.
Michael Field, a correspondent in New Zealand and the South Pacific for Agence-France Presse (AFP), one of the world's major news agencies, was banned from entering the Republic of Nauru to cover the 16-nation meeting.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Nauru, Angie Itsimaea, wrote Field saying he had no media accrediation. The country, however, has stated no official reason for banning Field from the country.
Field has reported stories on Nauru's tax haven banking problems and alleged links to the Russian Mafia —stories not well-received by Nauru's government
"Journalists should never be banned from covering events simply because someone doesn't like what they've written," said SPJ President Ray Marcano, an assistant managing editor at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. "Mr. Field is being punished because he's written the truth, and that's of grave concern to journalists worldwide. We urge the government to reverse course and let Mr. Field do his job —objective, unbiased reporting, whether or not the government likes what it reads."
Field also was banned from the 2000 Forum summit in Kiribati. The country said it did not agree with Field's coverage of environmental decay on the main island or his reports of a Chinese satellite tracking base in the country.
"In today's information world, countries that block journalists from doing their work do so at their peril. Nauru is one of the Southern Hemisphere's newer republics and, from what I've learned, has accomplished quite a bit for the benefit of its people since its independence," said Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information chairman and special projects coordinator for KPAX-TV in Missoula, Mont. "Denying entry to Michael Field out of apparent spite sends a message that Nauru will not tolerate dissenting opinions. That's entirely the wrong message for a modern republic to send abroad and to its own people."
A copy of Marcano's letter to Nauru can be found below.