Journalists were barred from entering the main campus of the University of the South Pacific where protests have been organized against alleged financial irregularities.
This statement was originally published on Pacific Freedom Forum’s Facebook page on 21 June 2020.
Regional Article 19 watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF, says the expulsion of journalists from the University of the South Pacific’s main campus during a special council meeting this week has created a cloud over its credibility which must be investigated and cleared.
PFF Chair Bernadette Carreon from Palau says Pacific member nations have to be told “why the sudden gate barricades, checks of all student IDs, denial of entry to media, and the expulsion of journalists who were already there, by security staff on the regional payroll? What is there to hide?”
PFF Melanesia Co-Chair Ofani Eremae of the Solomon Islands says reports of USP senior staffer Dr Elizabeth Fong being taken by Police while at work for questioning over alleged Covid-19 breaches earlier this week “sends a clearly discomfiting message about what happens to those who express a point of view,” says Eremae.
“We call on reinstated Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia to make it clear what the USP stance on media access is, to support the independence and academic freedoms of staff union members and students, and to raise awareness and debate through the USP schools across the Pacific, on the role of whistle-blowing as a vital protection of the public’s right to know,” he says.
PFF Polynesia co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa, stressed the need for the University to explain the ban on Friday, to address questions over why a university with a journalism school showed it cannot handle journalistic scrutiny.
“We have seen a huge response to the USP story from around the region, and commend in particular the efforts of our Fiji colleagues to keep up the analysis and coverage of this still unfolding regional situation. Kudos must go to Samisoni Pareti and the team at Islands Business who kept the spotlight on what was happening since they first broke this story last year.