The media director and publisher for Vanuatu’s only daily newspaper, Dan McGarry’s work permit renewal application was rejected by the Labour Commissioner on November 7. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate the Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) urge the Government to reconsider their decision not to renew Dan McGarry’s work permit.
The decision to not renew and revoke the work permit for Daily Post Media Director Dan McGarry coincides with direct Government pressure to silence McGarry. McGarry has lived and worked in Vanuatu for the last 16 years and has been with the newspaper for the previous 4 years. The Labour Commissioner Muriel Meltenoven rejected McGarry’s renewal on the basis that they “are trying to encourage localization policy, we want all business houses in Vanuatu to support localization and to make sure that ni-Vanuatu people are occupying those kinds of positions.” The Commissioner went on to say this is purely an “administrative decision”.
Despite the Commissioner’s response, the company employing Dan McGarry, Trading Post Ltd is a “100% Ni Vanuatu owned company” according to Daily Post. The Daily Post is well known for “reporting without fear or favour in Vanuatu”. The Daily Post note the refusal and revocation of Dan McGarry’s work permit is a direct attack on media freedom.
Earlier in the year, the Daily Post published a series of stories on six Chinese nationals who were detained and deported to China, without a trial or legal counsel, four of whom were Vanuatu citizens. Following the stories, McGarry was told a note was placed on his employment file. In July, the prime minister summoned McGarry and MAV to complain about their “negative” coverage.
MAV said they are “saddened by the Government decision not to renew the work permit for the Daily Post Media Director Dan McGarry. MAV maintains that silencing the media and journalists will only affect the good relationship media has with this government. This is at a level never before experienced by the media industry.”
The IFJ said: “We call on the Government to urgently review the decision. The Daily Post must be allowed the opportunity to pursue its appeal unimpeded. We expect the process of review to be transparent and free from government interference. Further, the continued attacks on MAV is unacceptable and directly interferes with journalists’ ability to report and the free press. We strongly urge Vanuatu’s Government to cease these attacks immediately.”