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Journalists detained in Port Moresby

Tuesday 8 September 2015 | Published in Regional


PORT MORESBY – The Papua New Guinea government has intervened to correct an immigration blunder where seven journalists from Pacific countries were detained and their passports taken from them in Port Moresby this week.

The members of the Pacific Island News Association, who arrived in Papua New Guinea ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) annual summit, were detained because of “problems with their visas” and were later released but without their passports.

Several of the journalists were held for around three hours at the Port Moresby airport because they had not paid a 1000 kina fee per person.

Samisoni Pareti, the editor-in-chief of Islands Business magazine, said there was no such fee mentioned or demanded at previous forums.

“We told them that ‘that’s news to us’ because we had gone through the accreditation process two months before arrival and there was no mention at all about the 1000 kina fee that they are now talking about,” he said.

“We told them we rather return to our country than paying the fee.

“At that stage we asked for phone access so we could call our foreign affairs here but they said we were not entitled to a phone call.”

A few hours later, a representative from the PIF secretariat and a ministry of foreign affairs official came to the immigration office where the journalists were being held.

After the officials intervened, the group was finally released but without their passports.

Pareti called the incident “tragic”.

PNG’s immigration minister Rimbink Pato promised to intervene, adding that he would “see what dispensations we can allow if they’ve paid any fees in relation to their participation”.

Pato, who later addressed the journalists at a pre-training programme for members of the Pacific Island News Association attending the Pacific Island Forum, said he will instruct the return of the passports belonging to journalists who are from Fiji, Palau, Tonga, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The Prime Minister’s Media Unit clarified that journalist visa clearance applies only to journalists from “other countries”.

Those from countries under the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Island Forum are not subject to this visa requirement.

The ABC understands some Australian journalists due to arrive next week for the forum have paid the fee.

The Pacific Island Forum meeting is scheduled to take place from September 7 to 11.