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16th of July 2018

Economy



Press Gallery threatens boycott of Turnbull's trip to Nauru if ABC ban isn't overturned

Canberra's political journalists are threatening a boycott of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's upcoming trip to Nauru, unless the local government overturns a ban on ABC staff attending.

The public broadcaster was due to send one cameraman to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), alongside a photographer and a journalist from agency AAP to cover the event on behalf of all Australian media.

But on Monday the Nauruan Government said no ABC representatives would be granted visas to enter the country under any circumstances, citing years of what it alleged was biased reporting from the broadcaster.

"The decision by the Government of Nauru to pick and choose the journalists who cover the Pacific Islands Forum is an appalling restriction on press freedom," Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery President David Crowe said in a statement.

"If the ban is not reversed, the media pool will be disbanded.

"If one cannot go, none will go."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had described the decision by the Nauruan Government as "regrettable", but argued it was up to local authorities to decide who was allowed in.

'Good on them': Shorten backs Gallery stand

Mr Crowe said the Press Gallery consulted with the Federal Government about the pool arrangements, to benefit all Australian outlets.

"We oppose the Nauru edict because it is wrong in this instance and because it sets a dangerous precedent," he said.

"What other Australian media might be banned from a similar group by another government in future?

"We stand for a free press, not a banned one."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten encouraged the Press Gallery's stance, saying Malcolm Turnbull should "join the team".

"I get that Nauru is a sovereign government and is entitled to decide who comes into their country," he said.

"But it's our Prime Minister going there, it's our independent public broadcaster who should report what an Australian Prime Minister is doing overseas.

"I get it's not an easy issue — don't get me wrong, I don't think that there is a simple solution here — but it shouldn't be left to the Opposition or to the press gallery to fight for the coverage of prime ministers overseas."

Fairfax backed the Press Gallery's position, with the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age's executive editor James Chessell saying "any attempt to restrict press freedom is an affront to all newsrooms".

But News Corp confirmed it would still send a journalist to cover the forum.

"We believe silence is not the way to fight a ban on press freedom," a spokesman said.

"The Australian media has accompanied prime ministers to countless countries with questionable press freedom in the past and will continue to do so.

"Our attendance is a clear demonstration that we live in a democracy where the value of a free press is paramount."

One of the organisation's journalists, Sharri Markson, took to social media to describe the threats of a boycott as "ludicrous".

Nauru has previously taken issue with the ABC's reporting on its treatment of asylum seekers housed in Australian offshore asylum seeker processing facilities, and the airing of allegations senior ministers were bribed by an Australian businessman.

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