Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Status Change: Nauru declined from Free to Partly Free due to the government’s efforts to restrict coverage of political events, including national elections, as well as the imposition of a prohibitive A$8,000 entry visa fee (previously A$200) for media professionals, which stands to restrict foreign press coverage of a controversial detention center for asylum seekers to Australia.
This island nation of just under 10,000 inhabitants safeguards freedom of expression in Article 12 of the constitution, though there are limitations for national security. Defamation is a criminal offense and can result in heavy fines or imprisonment of up to two years. There are no protections under the law for freedom of information, and in the past the government has proven uncooperative in granting access to documents. The Nauru Media Bureau operates the state radio and television stations and the state newspaper. There is no self-regulatory organization for the press in Nauru.
Concerns over government interference in the media sector surfaced in 2013 amid an election year and an unusually tense political climate. In May 2013, then president Sprent Dabwido issued a ban on political reporting by state-owned Nauru TV and Radio Nauru, the country’s only broadcast media, two weeks ahead of the June national elections. The president later rescinded the ban but required that all requests for interviews with parliamentarians be approved by his office. In addition, the parliament recently approved a 40-fold increase in the price of an entry visa for media professionals—from A$200 (US$193) to A$8,000—set to go into effect in early 2014. The bloated fees stand to restrict foreign press coverage of a controversial refugee detention center for people seeking asylum in Australia. The facility, which closed in 2007 but reopened in 2012, has come under heavy criticism by the United Nations for maltreatment of refugees. On multiple occasions, the government blocked local television interviews with opposition members of parliament who voiced concerns about the detention center.
The media in Nauru is hamstrung by inadequate facilities, a lack of funding, and poorly trained media professionals. However, Australian Aid and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched initiatives in the past five years aimed at building the capacity of the media sector. In general, the mainly government-owned sector lacks diversity. The country’s only newspaper, Mwinen Ko, is published monthly by the government and has sustained operations with assistance from Australian Aid. A number of small newspapers such as the Nauru Bulletin, Nauru Chronicle, and Central Star News no longer operate due to financial difficulties. The state runs one radio station, Radio Nauru, and one television station, Nauru TV, that carry programming from local and foreign media; there is no private broadcasting. The internet is not restricted by the government, although due to a poor telecommunications infrastructure, access remained limited to less than 6 percent of the population in 2013, according to Internet World Stats.