Foreign journalists are not welcome in Nauru. This is because of the erosion of rule of law and national sovereignty that has occurred as a result of the tiny and impoverished nation's government hiring out the island as a location for one of Australia's concentration camps for refugees.
The point of locating the camps on remote Pacific Islands is so that the deliberate ill-treatment of refugees — which is what “deterrence” means — can happen out of sight and beyond the meagre protection of Australian law.
This is why Australian law allows anyone working in the refugee detention system, onshore or offshore, who speak about any abuses they witness to be punished with two years' imprisonment.
This is also why for Nauru, one of the costs of hosting the camp has been the country's slide toward authoritarianism.
Restrictions on journalists visiting Nauru are officially an exercise of sovereignty by the island nation, but are actually imposed on the orders of Canberra.
In January 2014, the application fee for a journalist's visa for Nauru increased by 2000% to $8000. Applications are routinely refused and the fee is not refundable.
It should be no surprise then that the only Australian journalist allowed into Nauru in the past 18 months is former Liberal Party media advisor and associate editor of Rupert Murdoch's Australian, Chris Kenny.
“If my public support for strong border protection measures helped sway Nauru's decision [to grant me a visa], so be it,” Kenny smugly told the October 20 Guardian.
Once in Nauru, Kenny wasted no time in obtaining a scoop on “Abyan” — the Somali woman who fled her country as a result of sexual violence only to be raped while in Australian detention on Nauru in July.
Abyan was flown to Australia on October 11 to allow her to terminate the pregnancy that was the result of being raped on Nauru (where abortion is illegal). However, on October 16 she was sent back, without having had the abortion, by a government panicked at the possibility that her lawyers could obtain an injunction allowing her to stay in Australia.
On October 20, Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre was talking to Abyan on the phone when she became alarmed because police were attempting to enter her room. Curr described what happened next on Facebook.
“She rang back a few minutes later in great distress, saying: 'There is a journalist here and he won't go away.'
“She then was crying out to this person, whose Australian male voice I could hear in the background: 'No, no picture. No picture by force. Go away and leave me. I am sick. Go away.'
“I called out, 'Please give him the phone and I will talk.'
“I heard her say: 'Talk to my friend, she speaks good English.'
“She handed him the phone. I said, 'Is that Chris Kenny?'
“He replied: 'Speaking.' I said, 'Get out of the room immediately. Leave now.'
“Kenny said words to the effect: 'I am talking to Abyan, we are having a conversation.' I replied that I could hear her asking him to leave — so go now.”
In Kenny's “exclusive” article — that was the fruits of this bullying — he confirmed that Abyan contradicted Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's claim that she had been offered an abortion during her brief time in Australia. Instead, he cast doubt that she had been raped, and cast similar doubts on the claims of other victims.
On October 21, Kenny again paid Abyan an unwanted visit, this time accompanied by police. After the police spent 15 minutes confrontationally interviewing her, Kenny photographed her without her consent and filed an article reporting that she had “declined to make a statement or lodge a rape complaint”.
On Twitter Kenny has attempted to portray his activities on Nauru as fearless journalism. In one tweet he responded to the criticism he has received by saying: “Leunig Left against transparency now.”
His son, musician Liam Kenny, tweeted in response: “No one is against transparency. They're against propagandic exploitation of an already traumatised woman, you disgusting pig.”
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