Asylum seekers distressed as Facebook blocked in Nauru

The Nauru government has blocked access to Facebook under the guise of a crackdown on online pornography, a opposition MP says.The government of the tiny Pacific island has directed the country’s only internet service provider “to start blocking applicable websites” as part of a new ban on “internet sites that show pornography, particularly those featuring children”.

The Nauru government has blocked access to Facebook under the guise of a crackdown on online pornography, a opposition MP says.

The government of the tiny Pacific island has directed the country’s only internet service provider “to start blocking applicable websites” as part of a new ban on “internet sites that show pornography, particularly those featuring children”.

Nauruan opposition MP Mathew Batsiua told the ABC’s Pacific Beat that Nauruans had this week been unable to access Facebook and the government’s real intention was to prevent criticism and free speech. He described the move as an act of dictatorship.

“The real agenda here is curbing the rights of people to access social media,” he said.

“This is all about [justice minister David] Adeang and his cronies being worried about the ever increasing number of people who have taken to social media to criticise his dictatorial style, which even the president is either unwilling – or too scared – to rein in.”

Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said asylum seekers in the offshore detention centre on Nauru and refugees resettled in the country were distressed by the ban. Asylum seekers are usually given access to the internet every three days, he said.

“For many of them it is a lifeline to their family, to their community, to the outside world. There is quite a deal of dismay and anxiety at Facebook being cutting off,” he said.

“The Australian government has been only too winning to collaborate with the Nauru government with the increasingly dictatorial measures it has taken.”

A Department of Immigration spokesperson said that any internet restrictions in Nauru were a matter for the Nauruan government.

In a press release this week, Nauru’s justice minister David Adeang​ said pornography was not consistent with the country’s faith or values.

“Nauru is a small country with limited resources, and we do not have the capability to monitor the internet like larger nations, so this move and our new laws are both significant measures,” he was quoted as saying.

“As a nation, we have the right and the ability to promote the values that helped build our country, and these include values that are based on scripture.”

The release said some websites had already been blocked and the government was evaluating others.

Fairfax Media has attempted to contact the Nauru government.

Mr Adeang said foreigners may disagree with the move because “many outside of Nauru do not understand Pacific or Nauruan culture”. He also said the government had received “tremendous support from the Nauruan people”.

Earlier in the week, the government denied shutting down access to Facebook but said it was possible some social media sites had been blocked since it started the ban on pornography websites.

Facebook is also banned in China, North Korea and Iran.

Source: Asylum seekers distressed as Facebook blocked in Nauru

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