Barbara Dreaver: Fiji's journalist blacklist is a disgrace

According to Prime Minister John Key the 2006 Fiji coup is ancient history and the time is right for his official visit this week.

But it still isn't right for everyone.

Remnants of the military dictatorship still remain – and some journalists who specialise in the Pacific, including myself as TVNZ's Pacific Correspondent, are still banned.

Why? What on earth are they afraid of?

Fiji held its democratic elections in 2014, the country made its choice, and is now intent on letting the world know it is free and fair.

Yet it persists in maintaining some undemocratic actions.

Restricting, banning and persecuting media is in every military dictator's handbook – I get that.

But has or has not Fiji moved on from this?

Being locked up in a detention centre for the night, being threatened and having the Geneva Convention breached when a New Zealand Government representative was denied access to me was unpleasant.

But that was in 2008 – eight years ago.

Barbara Dreaver became the news after Fijian authorities banned her from the country in 2008, an order that remains in place today. Source: 1 NEWS

From a personal perspective I was born, went to school, worked and lived in the pacific - and I have close family in Fiji, as I do many Pacific countries.

I am half I-Kiribati, which means I cannot travel home unless I travel with the Air Force as commercial flights are through Fiji.

From a professional perspective, the ban means it's not just Fiji I can't report from, but also Kiribati and Tuvalu which both count on flights from Fiji.

I have strong professional relationships with both the governments of Kiribati and Tuvalu – both of which face huge challenges with rising sea levels and isolation – and want their stories told.

Neither country is impressed that I am restrained from travelled there.

Restricting, banning and persecuting media is in every military dictator's handbook. - Barbara Dreaver

As part of a Ministerial delegation this week I went to those countries, and was granted "special permission" to transit for one hour through Nadi Airport.

The people of Fiji deserve to have their stories told no matter who they are or who they vote for.

Journalists should not be banned in any democratic country.

The fact that the New Zealand delegation headed by the Prime Minister cannot include the national broadcaster's Pacific Correspondent is a disgrace.

*Other journalists banned from Fiji include former pacific correspondents for the ABC and Fairfax, Sean Dorney and Michael Field. 

Barbara Dreaver was granted dispensation to touch down in Nadi for an hour yesterday, eight years after the Fiji Government banned her from visiting. Source: 1 NEWS



Black-market home-brew kills Sydney man

Black market home-brew is believed to be behind the death of a 57-year-old Sydney man, prompting a warning from police.

The man was admitted to Liverpool Hospital on September 11 after a fall and police were alerted.

His condition deteriorated through the week until he died on Tuesday.

"Investigators have been advised by health authorities that the man was suffering the effects of acute methanol poisoning, with a post mortem examination still to be conducted," NSW Police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The man was a regular drinker but not to excess, investigators have been told - and the alcohol may have been illegally sourced home-brew.

It's feared the alcohol, known as Rakia or Rakija, is being sold in the community.

Ten bottles of the alcohol have been seized from the man's home in West Hoxton Park and taken for forensic tests.

A report is being prepared for the coroner.

Group of home brew craft beer bottles
Home-brew alcohol (file picture). Source: istock.com


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Reality show doctor and woman allegedly used 'good looks' to lure victims into California drug rapes

A California physician who appeared in a reality TV dating show and an alleged female accomplice have been charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women, and authorities said today there could be many more victims.

Orthopedic surgeon Grant W. Robicheaux, 38, of Newport Beach and Cerissa Laura Riley, 31, of Brea were arrested September 12 after being charged with rape by use of drugs, oral copulation by anaesthesia or controlled substance, and other crimes, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told a news conference in Santa Ana.

Investigators were meticulously going through "thousands and thousands of videos and images on Robicheaux's phone, many also including Riley," Rackauckas said.

Some videos show women who "appear to be highly intoxicated beyond the ability to consent or resist, and they're barely responsive to the defendant's sexual advances. Based on this evidence, we believe that there might be many unidentified victims out there," he said.

The district attorney showed reporters video of Robicheaux from a now-cancelled Bravo TV show called "Online Dating Rituals of the American Male" in an episode titled "Three's A Crowd."

"We believe the defendants used their good looks and charm to lower the inhibitions of their potential prey," Rackauckas said, releasing an array of information about many locations and events associated with Robicheaux and Riley.

The defendants, who were released on $US100,000 bail, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Grant W. Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley. Source: Associated Press

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North Korea agrees to dismantle main nuke site if US takes steps too

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a sweeping set of agreements after their second day of talks in Pyongyang today.

They included a promise by Kim to permanently dismantle the North's main nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding measures, the acceptance of international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Declaring they had made a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, the two leaders were side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting today.

"We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat," Kim said as he stood by Moon's side at the guesthouse where Moon is staying.

"The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can't anticipate. But we aren't afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation."

Kim and Moon earlier smiled and chatted as they walked down a hallway and into a meeting room to finalize the joint statement, which also said that the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to "eliminate all the danger of war." They agreed that Kim would visit the South in the near future.

The statement caps off the third summit between Kim and Moon, who is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in its efforts to get Kim to completely — and unilaterally — abandon his nuclear arsenal.

But while containing several tantalising offers, it appears to fall short of the major steps many in Washington had been looking for — such as a commitment by Pyongyang to provide a list of the North's nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline or an agreement to allow international inspectors in to assess progress or discover violations.

The question is whether it will be enough for President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off.

Trump has maintained that he and Kim have a solid relationship, and both leaders have expressed interest in a follow-up summit to their meeting in June in Singapore. North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a cease-fire, but neither leader mentioned it as they read the joint statement.

In the meantime, however, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

According a joint statement signed by the countries' defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.

Though not directly linked to security, the leaders' announcement that they would seek a joint Summer Olympics was a significant move in terms of easing tensions and building trust. It also flows from the North's decision to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February, which was regarded as a success for both sides.

Other agreements aimed at removing some longstanding irritants from their relations — such as allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the North's infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.

Unlike Mr Trump's initial tweets praising the summit, the news brought a quick and negative response from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tweeted he was concerned the visit would undermine efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to impose "maximum pressure" on Pyongyang.

"While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearization," he tweeted.
With the main business of the day over, North Korea was expected to hold a huge mass games spectacle in the evening, with Moon as the special guest.

The North had put the iconic games, which feature tens of thousands of performers dancing and flipping placards in unison to create giant mosaics and slogans, on a back burner for the past several years, but revived them for this month's celebrations of its 70th founding anniversary. In a performance for the anniversary, a giant photo of Moon and Kim shaking hands at their first summit in April was projected onto one side of the stands in Pyongyang's 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

In this image made from video provided by Korea Broadcasting System (KBS),  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands at the end of their joint press conference in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. (Korea Broadcasting System via AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands at the end of their joint press conference in Pyongyang, North Korea. Source: Associated Press


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Strawberry sabotage prompts harsh new penalties in Australia

Pranksters who post food contamination hoaxes on social media could soon face 10 years behind bars in Australia, as the federal government announces harsh new criminal penalties in response to the strawberry needle crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "idiot" who first sabotaged Queensland strawberries, setting off a distressing series of events, had risked the livelihoods of farmers and put fear in the hearts of parents across the country.

"This is a shocking and cowardly thing for this individual and others who have jumped onto the bandwagon here to have engaged in," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra today.

Anyone found guilty of contaminating food could soon face a maximum of 15 years in prison, up from 10 years.

The threshold for the harsh penalties will also be lowered from an intention to cause anxiety or harm, to simply engaging in a reckless act.

The new criminal penalties are on par with child pornography and terror financing offences.

Additionally, anyone who piggy-backs off such a crisis by engaging in a reckless hoax would also face 10 years behind bars.

The offence would extend to people who provide false reports or make jokes in poor taste on Facebook.

"It's not a joke, it's not funny, you are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children, you're a coward and you're a grub." Mr Morrison said.

"If you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you and we will throw the book at you."

Mr Morrison wants the laws to pass Parliament by the time it rises on Thursday evening.

"I don't care if you've got a gripe with a company, I don't care whether you've got a gripe with your fellow worker, this is a very serious thing," he said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the sanctions would not be applied retrospectively to those responsible for the existing strawberry saga.

"But the reason we are doing this so quickly is ... this sends a massive deterrence message to anyone out there who would further cripple this industry."

Canberra is cracking down in response to the needle contamination crisis. Source: 1 NEWS