Claire Trevett of the New Zealand Herald
AUCKLAND (The New Zealand Herald/ Pacific Media Watch): Prime Minister John Key says he will raise the Fiji government's ongoing ban on some New Zealand reporters during his visit to Fiji this week.
Key leaves tomorrow for the first visit by a New Zealand Prime Minister since the 2006 coup led by former military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, now the elected prime minister.
The visit follows the holding of democratic elections in Fiji in 2014 but has prompted questions about other actions by the Fijian government.
This includes the ongoing bans on New Zealand and Australian journalists whose reporting in the aftermath of the coup upset Bainimarama's regime and resulted in bans on them returning to Fiji.
Television New Zealand One News Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, former Fairfax reporter Michael Field and Australian journalist Sean Dorney were all banned in 2009 and are still subject to the ban.
Even Key's own chief press secretary Sia Aston, a former 3 News reporter, was detained and sent back from Fiji while on a reporting visit in 2009.
Dreaver described the ban as "a disgrace" on the One News website this week.
"Journalists should not be banned in any democratic country.The fact that the New Zealand delegation headed by the Prime Minister cannot include the national broadcaster's Pacific Correspondent is a disgrace."
A special dispensation was needed for a RNZAF Hercules carrying Foreign Minister Murray McCully's Pacific Mission to transit through Nadi because Dreaver was on board.
Key said if the issue had not been resolved he would raise it with Bainimarama.
"There were restrictions on certain people but all of that has sort of come and gone now. We believe absolutely and passionately in the freedom of the press and that the press should be free to travel. If it hasn't been dealt with, we will look at that issue, yes."
Key said his visit was to show support for the restoration of democracy, although it might not be a perfect democracy.
"The advice we get is that Frank Bainimarama has been quite popular and is doing quite well there. I'm not saying it is absolutely perfect, but there are probably quite a few countries that have a form of democracy we wouldn't see as perfect."
In another more recent incidents, Opposition MP Tupou Draunidalo was suspended from Parliament for two years until the 2018 election for calling Education Minister Mahendra Reddy "idiot" and "fool".
Draunidalo claimed Reddy had referred to the opposition as "dumb natives" but the Privileges Committee had found no evidence of that.
There was criticism during the 2014 election of the requirement for political parties to have at least 5000 members to be registered -- 10 times as many as the 500 required in New Zealand. That meant many opposition parties could not stand in the election.
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