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Dreaver tells of her Fiji ordeal

Published: 6:15PM Tuesday December 16, 2008 Source: ONE News

The diplomatic row between Fiji and NZ got personal with reporter Barbara Dreaver's expulsion from Fiji. Here's her exclusive story.

ONE News journalists tread a well worn a path to Fiji's door but this time it was slammed in Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver's face.

Dreaver was expelled from Fiji at the same time as the government in Suva is considering giving New Zealand's top diplomat there the boot as well.

Fiji's interim leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama sent a terse message to Wellington last week, saying if a visa was not granted to the son of a senior official in Suva, New Zealand's acting high commissioner Caroline McDonald would be expelled.

As Pacific Correspondent Dreaver went to cover the story but her journey was over before it even begun.

She was told she was being taken to a detention centre for the night and would be put on the first flight out on Tuesday.

First though, she faced a long lonely night behind a high security fence. She was allowed to keep her cellphone but there was no water to drink in the sweltering darkness.

"It's been quite a tough night, an anxious night. But I was treated really well. It was a detention centre surrounded by barbed wire and so forth but we were locked in," she said on Tuesday morning.

Reunited with her crew back at the airport on Tuesday morning, there was news she had been blacklisted by Fijian authorities.

"All I know is that I was put on a watchlist in July," she says.

Initially it was unclear why.

Fiji has been the source of many stories over a very long time, Dreaver explains.

But the Fiji government has revealed it was a story back in April that landed Dreaver on the wrong side of the military.

Fiji's rulers are furious their lack of action towards a poverty stricken village was exposed for the world to see.

Dreaver reported in the story that when a mine shut down around 1,700 people lost their jobs and it affected the entire town of Vitai Cola. She reported that the village school's coffers were empty and so were the children's stomachs.

It was for this report that she was forced to leave Fiji, the fourth New Zealand journalist to be expelled in Fiji's turbulent times, and uncomfortably now the focus of a story, not the eyewitness to it.

"It's not about fairness, it's about a military government and how they want to run their country," she said on arrival at Auckland Airport.

"But that won't stop me from asking questions from afar."

And the deportation of Dreaver has been condemned by the New Zealand government which is still trying to negotiate a solution to the stand-off with Fiji's military regime.

Prime Minister John Key says the treatment of Dreaver is "unacceptable".

Key told ONE News that Ministry of Foreign affairs and Trade officials went to the detention centre to try and see Barbara but access was denied.

"That is totally unacceptable and we will be taking that matter up with the Fijian authorities," he says.

In Fiji, the military-led government is remaining quiet on the escalating diplomatic stoush.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been holding talks by phone on Tuesday afternoon with Bainimarama.

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  • rajnalu said on 2008-12-27 @ 12:16 NZDT: Report abusive post

    We must encourage New Zealanders to stand with us. Passive non-violent resistance is the way. There are many people in the Fiji tourism industry that want to stand up for democracy but have been told not to upset the apple-cart. Ask NZ Travel wholesalers to put a hold on selling Fiji for the next 6 months to help pro-democracy advocates in Fiji. Tourism promoted in these times is just a profitable scam for the privileged few. Lets get the real Fiji back and return Fiji to democracy.

  • chrisd55 said on 2008-12-18 @ 18:32 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Biased, maybe, misinformed NO-some Govt aid has been reinstated, "a reduced disbursement to allow for $5-6 million aid allocation for Fiji in 2007/8/09". Suggest you search nzaid.govt, and then also add all the NGO aid totals from NZ. May 08, Fiji still decries no increase in $25 million from Aus for this year saying"it looks like they are a bit slow in getting to know the rules, how things are done". Perhaps they should be looking to bully China to provide residency, travel, visa's, and study.

  • rambla said on 2008-12-17 @ 22:03 NZDT: Report abusive post

    How exciting that obviously some kind of polling has been done to indicate that 75% of the population is in support of an illegal occupation- does this mean that now the tiny little island that is used for war fodder around the world by which ever nation will pay the most dollars is gearing up for an election? If not then lets keep the pressure on. Governments are representatives of the people of that land, not someone with an army/ego that likes to tell people what to do.

  • naiknii said on 2008-12-17 @ 21:00 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Nz should start respecting other government like Fiji and stop the stick and carrot slogan. if we are not willing to co-operate than Fiji has something far better to achieve for her people. I believe Fiji imports more from NZ and guess more than its so called NZAID flag. Have a talk that benefits both and look back at our weak one sided mere politics naikniizzzzz

  • RegB said on 2008-12-16 @ 15:34 NZDT: Report abusive post

    As a journo with over 40 years experience I find this deplorable! Especially when the alleged government refused access to Ms Dreaver! Is Fiji like Russia? Has the coup leader taken a leaf out of Putin's book? I think so - much to the chagrin of Pacific leaders nad the populous at large.

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