TVNZ's news boss has today called for the ban on its Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver entering Fiji to be lifted.
The broadcaster's Head of News and Current Affairs, John Gillespie, took issue with claims made by Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama last night and said the restriction should end immediately.
Mr Gillespie said: "It’s time the media ban was lifted.
"Today it was claimed that ONE News showed tanks on the street of Suva and images of children eating grass – but this never happened and we did no such thing.
"We're releasing footage from that time which definitively shows there's no basis for Mr Bainimarama's claims."
You can watch the 2008 story here:
Speaking at a banquet to welcome Prime Minister John Key, Mr Bainimarama yesterday launched a stinging attack on New Zealand and Australia media.
He said: “New Zealand television ran footage of tanks in the streets of Suva when our military does not own any tanks. They had been interposed from other sources. A claim was made that Fijian children were starving and were eating grass. These are egregious examples of wilful bias and misreporting.”
Ms Dreaver, who was blacklisted from Fiji for the story, says: "This is an absolute nonsense. I did a story shortly before I was banned about how times were tough in one of the villages – the children had been told by their teachers to help pull out the grass with their hands as they couldn’t afford fuel for their motor mower.
"We even showed them putting the grass in the rubbish bin – not their tummies."
In terms of the tanks accusation, TVNZ says it cannot find any instance where pictures of tanks from foreign sources have been put into stories on Fiji.
Ms Dreaver said she has previously addressed this matter with the Fiji Government. In May 2014 she wrote an email to its Communications Manager Sharon Smith-Johns and included a copy of her script and background material.
In his speech last night Mr Bainimarama said that, according to the New Zealand media, what happened in Fiji in 2006 lacked legitimacy.
Ms Dreaver covered the coup in Fiji that year and said the media covered the military takeover for what it was. But she said things have now moved on and the current Government is legally and democratically elected.
Mr Gillespie added: "Barbara Dreaver is a highly respected journalist. She’s covered the region for 20 years and I can’t think of a journalist who knows it better.
"She should be immediately removed from the Fiji Government’s blacklist so she can do her job as our Pacific correspondent."