2017-11-24 14:49:30 #MEAAMedia #pressfreedom MediaRoom Releases

MEAA has formally complained to the Australian and PNG prime ministers about the singling out and deliberate targeting by PNG police of Iranian-Kurdish refugee journalist Behrouz Boochani. He was detained by PNG police yesterday at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

MEAA believes that comments by PNG police show Boochani was being deliberately targeted for his journalism and his detention in handcuffs amounts to an outrageous attack on press freedom.

Boochani was likely selected for this special treatment because of his journalism reporting on the situation on Manus. The determination of PNG police officers from the outset to find “the journalist” suggests the officers intended to disrupt and muzzle any live reporting of the activities of the PNG police while they conducted their operation inside the Centre, and that by getting a working journalist removed from the scene of the police action, media coverage of the event would be minimal.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said: “For years now, a veil of secrecy has cloaked every aspect of the government’s asylum seeker policy. The role of the media is to hold the powerful to account and to scrutinise what they do. Behrouz Boochani is a former magazine editor and publisher. His reports for various Australian media outlets have finally given us a glimpse into the conditions on Manus faced by refugees. His reporting has been exemplary and has been recognised with an Amnesty International Australia Media Award.

“The actions and statements of PNG police confirm that Boochani was targeted during the police operation on Manus. That is a clear assault on press freedom,” Murphy said.

In its letter, MEAA has called on the two prime ministers to ensure that those engaged in the outrageous assault on press freedom on Manus Island be reminded of their obligations to protect journalists and working media covering important news stories on Manus Island, and observe their obligations towards freedom of expression and press freedom.

Download the letter here.