Friday, 19 December 2008 5:57 AM

Deportation of NZ Reporter from Fiji Draws Criticism

There has been widespread criticism within Fiji and around the Region for the country's actions in deporting TVNZ reporter, Ms. Barbara Dreaver.

Ms. Dreaver was detained by Fiji's immigration authorities on Tuesday morning.

According to Fiji Times Online, Ms. Dreaver was on the immigration blacklist. Information Department's Deputy Secretary, Major Neumi Leweni, confirmed that Ms Dreaver had been on the immigration watch list since July.

Immediately after her arrival back in Auckland, Ms Dreaver said she believed the deportation was linked to her news story exposing the non-action of the interim regime over poverty in Vatukoula. The rise in poverty in Vatukoula, Fiji's gold mining town followed the closure of the main mining company, Emperor Gold Mines.

According to the reports by Fiji Times Online, Ms. Dreaver said that, "soon after I wrote that article, I received an email from the interim Government expressing its disappointment."

She said that putting her "name on the black list is disgraceful", showing that the interim regime did not recognize media freedom.

Ms. Dreaver also said that she was not detained in Hotel Kennedy but at a detention centre "next to the runway with high bars and fence.

However, Major Leweni said Ms Dreaver was only detained "because there was no flight back to New Zealand" on Monday night.

Meanwhile, according to Fiji Sun, Cook Islands deputy Prime Minister, Sir Terepai Maoate, said he was very disappointed by the deportation "because it's just not the Pacific way."

"Ms Dreaver is part Cook Island and Maori," said Sir Terepai, adding that she "was only trying to do her job as a Pacific affairs reporter for TVNZ - that is of informing the world what is happening in Fiji, one she does very capably."

"We are very interested to know what is happening in Fiji as we have friends and family living and working there. We have students studying at the University of the South Pacific," said Sir Terepai.

According to the Women NGO, femLINKPACIFIC, they said that the military led interim administration must be reminded that as a member state of the United Nations and a troop-contributing country to peacekeeping operations, it should respect 'in letter and spirit' a key Security Council resolution unanimously adopted on December 23, 2006.

"The deportation of Russell Hunter and Evan Hannah this year, as well as the recent detention of TVNZ journalist Barbara Dreaver, puts our country's poor human rights standards under the spotlight.

"There must be a far less oppressive option than simply putting a journalist on an immigration 'watch list" and waiting for them to turn up to Nadi Airport and then shunting them off into a holding cell in the middle of the night.

"Fiji as a UN member state is required to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1738, which specifically calls for respect of the professional independence and rights of journalists, media professionals and associated personnel as civilians. However, it seems like other human rights conventions and commitments, this is also being ignored," said reports from femLINKPACIFIC.

According to Fiji Sun's Pacific Freedom Forum, an online media network of Pacific journalists spoke against the deportation, stating that, "the overnight detention and refused entry of NZ-based Pacific journalist Barbara Dreaver on Monday night is a shameful indictment of fear and insecurity by the current military regime there."

Ms. Dreaver follows several other members of the media that have been deported by Fiji's interim regime since the 2006 coup.

Apparently, those deported were reporting in what the regime terms as an inappropriate manner and even a threat to national security.

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By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
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