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Republic of Nauru Should Not Ban Journalist From Covering Summit


ontacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ president, 937/225-2323 or rmarcano@spj.org; Ian Marquand, SPJ Freedom of Information Committee chairman, 406/542-4400 or ian@kpax.com

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.

Department of Foreign Affairs
Government Offices
Yaren District
Republic of Nauru
Mr. Michael Dekarube
Director of Media
Nauru Media Bureau

Dear Sir:

Concerning your government's efforts to ban journalist Michael Field from covering the Pacific Island Forum:

The Society of Professional Journalists does not understand why your government would ban an accredited journalist from such an event. We do understand that Mr. Field has written stories that your government finds objectionable. Even if he has, that is not a reason to ban him from covering the forum.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the United States' largest journalism organization, representing not only working journalists —in print, online and broadcast —but also academics, high school and college students, public relations professionals, media attorneys and government officials.

Our members adhere to common goals —protecting the public interest and ensuring that ethical and credible professionals report the news.

Press freedoms are important for a number of reasons, including keeping the public informed. By denying a journalist the right to write, you are, by extension, denying your citizens an opportunity for unbiased coverage of an important event. I am sure that is not the intention of your government.

We add our voices to those organization that have already asked that you reverse what is clearly an error. We urge you to grant Mr. Field a credential and show your citizens you believe in their right to be informed through a free press. 

Ray Marcano,
National Board President
Society of Professional Journalists

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