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NAURU: Opposition interview on riot stopped, MP outraged over censorship


Nauruan opposition MP Mathew Batsiua is critical to the Government's decision of censoring an interview he did with Nauru Media. Image: naurugov.nr

Monday, July 29, 2013

Item: 8369

AUCKLAND (Pacific Media Watch / Radio New Zealand International): The Nauruan government has blocked an interview with opposition MP Matthew Batsiua from being broadcast.

In an interview with Don Wiseman of Radio New Zealand International, he said he is appalled that the Nauru Media interview was censored.

Batsiua was interviewed on Wednesday last week on the opposition’s views about the recent riot at the Nauru detention centre and its aftermath.

He said the interviewed was about the government’s sudden suspension of the Australian police commissioner in the wake of the riot that caused damages for $60 million, and the way in which the reservists were called out in what he believes was a panicked response by government.

“We’re not sure exactly what the reasons are that led to [police commissioner] Richard Britten’s suspension. We’ve heard conflicting reasons given by the acting president to the media. What we find astounding, though, is that the government would then remove a very experienced head of police half an hour before the riots erupted.”

“To us, we question the wisdom behind that move. One would think you would require the head of police and the police as a unit to be intact, facing a situation that is escalating into a serious conflict. So we question the wisdom of that."

Government panic
The opposition MP told Radio New Zealand International that he supported an investigation into the conduct of the police commissioner, but said the sacking was panicked.

“I think there was a degree of panic. I think the reaction of the government was not done in consultation with those in charge of the security, which are the police, and I think those are the lessons that are to be learnt from this whole thing.”

Batsiua said that he believed politicians meddled in police affairs. He claimed a phone call from the Cabinet was made directing the reservists to take action.

“We’ve also been told that the acting director of police was not aware. When we questioned the government, the government said it came from the director of police.”

“But we question the accuracy of that comment because when we’ve talked to people and we’ve done our own investigations talking to people, the information that was told to us was that the director of police did not know that reservists were coming up to help the police, and that was quite a dangerous situation."

By that time, Batsiua said, the situation was under control with the main instigators arrested, so there was no reason to call in the reservists, the MP argued.

“They [the Government] sort of portrayed the whole situation as if the nation was under attack, so the people coming up were ready to defend the nation, arming themselves with bush knives and shovels and picks and so forth. It could have turned really ugly very quickly, so the police were under great pressure.”

Batsiua said that a more fitting a description of the reservists would be to call them “a mob”.

“There was no government person up there to administer or direct or co-ordinate, so the police were taken a bit by surprise, as we’ve been told. So they ended up trying to keep the mob separate from the rioters’” he said.

Media ban
Batsiua said that he had written to acting president David Adeang to rethink the ban on the media running his interview.

He said the censorship is a disturbing trend with the new government taking unilateral actions to shut opposition viewpoints out of the media.

“Much to my dismay I was informed later that night that the media had received instructions from the acting president, David Adeang, not to show the interview that night.”

“So I have since written to Mr Adeang to appeal to his better sense if they can allow the interview to be show on Nauru Media,” Batsiua said.

A new government was elected in the Micronesian country in early June with Baron Waqa as the president. 

Nauru opposition upset at censorship

Nauru sacks Australian police commissioner after riot

The Nauru riot

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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