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Criticism about human rights abuses in Nauru refugee camps leads to Facebook ban

An 8 August 2014 rally in Sydney, Australia against the Nauru transfer of 157 Tamil asylum seekers
An 8 August 2014 rally in Sydney, Australia against the Nauru transfer of 157 Tamil asylum seekers

Demotix/Richard Milnes

This statement was originally published on on 5 May 2015.

The ban on Facebook in Nauru should be lifted immediately, says the Pacific Freedom Forum. "Banning social networks presents a dangerous threat to human rights," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi. "As a centre for processing refugees, the government of Nauru should ensure it protects human rights while benefiting from Australian aid dollars," she says.

Access to Facebook on Nauru was cut after the government faced growing criticism about human rights abuses in its refugee camps, including child abuse. An independent review found cases of rape, assault and drugs for favours at the detention centre. The ban also follows government censorship of state media and a new $8,000 fee (approx. US$6,340) for foreign media to enter the country, according to opposition critics.

The government said it asked the country's only Internet provider, Digicel, to cut access to some sites, without mentioning Facebook, claiming there was a problem with child porn. Facebook is heavily monitored for pornography.

PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller says the ban shows how desperate the government must be. "The ban is a direct attack on freedoms of speech," says Miller. "Instead of answering critics, the government has chosen to cut off access to one of the region's most popular social networks. "Instead of a ban, the governments of Nauru and Australia should be looking at getting assistance to resolve this issue from neutral bodies, such as the United Nations."

The ban has attracted wide coverage globally.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Australia: Stop transfers to Cambodia

    Australia should withdraw plans to send refugees from Nauru to Cambodia in the face of continuing abuses against those already in Cambodia.

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