Nations that don’t care for foreign journalists poking around have come up with a variety of interesting ways to silence them. As RePRESSed noted in an earlier post, China kept New York Times and Bloomberg reporters biting their nails for months before finally renewing their visas.
During its own version of the “Arab Spring,” Bahrain simply stopped journalists at the airport and sent them back home. Egypt jails some of them. In Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, as in several other countries, journalists have simply been murdered.
The tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru has come up with a novel way to discourage journalists–at least that’s what its opposition says: It upped the cost of a journalist visa forty-fold — from $181 to more than $7,200. And the fee is nonrefundable, even if the journalist’s application is turned down.
Nauru is defending the increase as a measure to bolster revenue. But Nauru’s opposition MPs say the government is trying to prevent foreign journalists from covering the only stories that would be interesting to foreign readers: Its treatment of asylum seekers.
Amnesty International said in November, 2012, that it had “found a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions creating an increasingly volatile situation on Nauru, with the Australian Government spectacularly failing in its duty of care to asylum seekers.”
Amnesty also says the transfer of asylum seekers from Australia to Nauru violates international law as it acts as a punishment for seeking asylum by boat.
The East Asia and the Pacific sub-region faces a constant influx of migrants and asylum-seekers from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The Australian government calls them IMAs (irregular maritime arrivals) and has adopted strict new asylum legislation and policies to handle them. Australia transfers IMAs to Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be processed. By the terms of their agreement of August 2013, Australia will give $17 million on top of the $29.9 million Australian foreign aid funding already budgeted for 2013-14.
Currently, more than 700 men, women and children are detained on Nauru, transferred from Australia as part of an arrangement paid for by the Australian government. Amnesty International has criticized Nauru’s refugee status determination procedures, including in respecting the principle of non-refoulement — that is, not turning refugees away or sending back into danger, something they are obligated not to do under the UN refugee convention.