11 September 2000


New Zealand minister appeals to Kiribati over banned journalist

Incident details

Michael Field



(PINA/IFEX) - On 10 September 2000, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Phil Goff said he is trying to persuade Kiribati to lift its ban on New Zealand journalist Mike Field. Kiribati, which is hosting the annual meeting of the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum next month, banned Field from visiting Kiribati over reports he wrote last year for a regional magazine.

Field is based in New Zealand and covers Pacific Islands nations and the Forum meetings for the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"I know Mike," said Goff, according to a report in the "New Zealand Herald" newspaper. "He can be a journalist who doesn't worry too much about the sensibilities of the country or the peoples that he writes about. That is his right. He is also, in my view, a very good journalist and the Forum would be poorer for not having a person of his calibre there. Obviously I respect the right of Kiribati to issue or not to issue a visa to any individual. We ourselves have that right in this country but we also quite strongly believe in freedom of the press."

PINA Nius Online reported that Field is one of the few New Zealand journalists who regularly cover Forum meetings. But his application to cover the Kiribati meeting was refused by Kiribati, as the host government.


On 29 November 1999, the regional news service Pacnews reported that Kiribati had barred Field from the country. It said President Teburoro Tito had told parliament the government banned Field because of his articles published in a regional magazine, "Pacific Islands Monthly".

Field's reports in "Pacific Islands Monthly" highlighted development problems in South Tarawa, the main atoll on Kiribati, a central Pacific nation of 84,000. He also wrote about efforts to block the directors of Newair FM, who are trying to set up Kiribati's first non-government radio station (see IFEX alert of 21 September 1999), and questions about the role of a Chinese research station in Kiribati. Tito called Field's articles biased and sensational and said they reflected Kiribati in a bad light.

Field is already routinely prevented from entering the kingdom of Tonga. That country's government has said he must apply for and be granted a visa before he can travel to Tonga (see IFEX alert of 24 June 1998).

PINA has previously appealed to the Tongan government to allow Field into the country and to respect Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of information and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."


Pacific Islands News Association
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