News reporters arriving in Nauru for this week's meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum have received some "guidance" from the host nation's President, Baron Waqa.
Addressing a pre-forum media briefing on Saturday, he said, "As gatekeepers, you ultimately mould and conduct what is being published to the masses, ultimately shaping their views and opinions of the world, whether fact or gossip."
Which would be fine were it not for the fact that his Government had earlier refused entry to the ABC over reporting it considered "blatant interference" in Nauru's politics and disrespectful of President Waqa.
Nauru has made it a condition of their visas that journalists report only on the forum. It is anxious to ensure their focus is not on the topic of more immediate concern to many in this part of the world — the conditions of life on Nauru for would-be refugees to Australia.
That subject might not have been raised at the forum had it not been for the efforts of World Vision New Zealand which has urged our representatives to raise it. Foreign Minister Winston Peters has been up there since Monday and avoided the issue. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who attends the forum today, has been non-committal. "I imagine this, amongst many other issues, are likely to be the subject of discussion," she says.
Well, it probably will not be discussed unless she raises it. The Government of Nauru has made it clear it regards the issue as a matter for itself and Australia and it would be out of character for other members of the forum to risk offending the host. But President Waqa will have been advised that New Zealand's Prime Minister is bound to be asked questions about it afterwards, and is therefore bound to raise the subject in their discussions if he does not.
World Vision is campaigning for the urgent removal of 119 children and their families from Nauru. It claims that they are living in substandard conditions that violate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Australian courts have been told many of the children are suffering a reaction to prolonged hardship called resignation syndrome, becoming socially withdrawn, disinclined to eat or drink and unresponsive to pain.
The Nauru Government had not exactly denied this is happening, claiming refugee children are being manipulated into self-harm by their families, calling it "a disgusting and tragic political game".
Ardern has responded to the World Vision campaign by restating New Zealand's offer to Australia to take 150 of its offshore detainees, and she pointed out the offer applied to those on Nauru as well as Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. World Vision has urged her to make the offer directly to Nauru rather than Australia.
Australia's new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is not attending the forum, which should make it easier for Ardern to ask questions of the host. Whether she does or not, the issue will haunt the gathering. The island is tiny, the refugees must be conspicuous and they have sympathetic ears there today. They could ensure we are better informed.