News / Asia

Australia Defends Tough Media Detention Center Restrictions

Phil Mercer
Australian immigration officials have defended restrictions that limit press access to detention centers.  While the media are barred from offshore processing camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, journalists are allowed into facilities on the mainland but are subject to strict rules and barred from formally interviewing detainees. 

Eighteen months ago the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said that the country’s immigration centers were “less open and transparent than Guantanamo Bay.”

Since then, the Immigration Department has given reporters limited access to detention facilities under a Deed of Agreement on media access.

Journalists are permitted to speak with detainees but are not given permission to formally interview them or record their comments, nor are they allowed to publish images of inmates’ faces.

Immigration officials say the restrictions are in place to protect the privacy of asylum seekers, in much the same way that school children or hospital patients have their privacy protected from the press in Australia.

While reporters are allowed to visit mainland immigration facilities, they are barred from recently reopened camps in Papua New Guinea and on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru, which houses asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.

Senior Australian immigration department spokesman, Sandi Logan, told a forum at the University of Technology Sydney that he hoped the press will eventually be allowed in.

“I have got to say that operationally there are much greater priorities for us in Nauru at the moment than a media access policy. But having said that, I think it is absolutely essential that journalists have access to that facility and likewise to the facility in Papua New Guinea, and that will be something that in time, in time, will be negotiated.  And when those two parties i.e. the government of Australia and the government of Nauru have agreed on the settings, the parameters for that media access then it would be my expectation that will occur," said Logan. 

Australian journalists say that the Deed of Agreement that governs visits to detention centers is too restrictive, and prevents them from telling the true story of conditions behind the razor wire fences.

The head of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, says the public does have a right to know.

“People in those detention centers are there because of government policies," he said. "They are the policies adopted by the governments we have elected and they are having a very substantial impact on people, even if those people are not our citizens.  Therefore as citizens of Australia people are entitled to know what the impact of their government policies are.  But we think there are substantial ways in which these restrictions go too far.” 

Since the restrictions were brought in a year ago, about 50 journalists, including reporters from Switzerland and Germany, have toured mainland immigration centers in Australia.

It is unclear when press access will be granted to Australia’s two offshore detention centers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, which reopened Wednesday, and another on the tiny South Pacific republic of Nauru, which reopened in September.

Both facilities were used by the former conservative government in Australia.  In the past critics derided the policy as cruel and ineffective, and they are taking aim once again.  

Amnesty International this week said conditions on Nauru were responsible for a ''terrible spiral'' of hunger strikes and suicide attempts.

Australia grants protection visas to about 13,000 refugees each year under a range of international agreements.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More