A media advocacy group in the Pacific region says the ban on foreign media during the recent election in Nauru was not mentioned by any observers.
The Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) released a media statement this week which highlighted their concern over observer statements that said the election in Nauru was “free and fair”, despite the fact that foreign media was banned from attending.
“Foreign media were stopped from having free access to Nauru,” said PFF chair Titi Gabi.
The statement said election observers needed to give “much higher priority on the importance of free and fair access to news media”.
It also said observers from the Pacific Islands Forum “made only a single passing mention of local media in their interim report”.
Commonwealth observers made “fuller” comments on news media, a fact welcomed by PFF.
“But those comments appear to show a major gap in observers’ understanding of the role of the Fourth Estate, especially around election times,” the release noted.
The statement said the leader of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s election observer mission to Nauru, former Kiribati president Anote Tong, “claimed” access to news media was less important in small countries, because candidates could hold meetings and meet voters face-to-face.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller said Tong underestimated the importance of news media.
“Voters may be too fearful for their jobs, education or business to ask politicians any hard questions,” Miller said.