Over the last few years, the small island state has insisted on controlling the journalistic pool. A conspicuous target here has been the ABC itself, which was banned from entering the country to cover the Pacific Islands Forum in September. In a government statement posted in July, “It should be noted that no representative from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be granted a visa to enter Nauru under any circumstances.”
Elevated to the levels of high secrecy under the term Operation Sovereign Borders, “operational details” in dealing with boat arrivals, as they are termed, have been a matter of clandestine value. The degrees of control have also extended to covering camp conditions, a matter policed by such brutish little laws such as the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth). Under that bit of legislative nastiness, those who obtain “protected information” in the course of their employment in the border force apparatus can be punished for two years for disclosing such information except to authorised personnel.
Prior to the passage of the ABFA, the Australian government made it its business to hound a number of Save the Children employees working in the Nauru Regional Processing centre. Their sin had been to disclose information on the lamentable conditions in the centre.
The levels of media management regarding reporting on the conditions in Nauru has been extreme. Amnesty International has called this a veritable “wall of secrecy”, designed to conceal “a system of deliberate abuse”. The Nauru government has periodically limited access by journalists to the island, a process made craftier by the hefty visa application fee. In 2014, the non-refundable fee of $200 jumped to $8000.