On 13 August, prime minister Julia Gillard announced Australia would start sending asylum seekers for processing on Christmas Island by the end of September, and Manus Island at a later date.
Two days later, a Fairfax Media journalist and photographer submitted visa applications to visit PNG and Manus Island. Their applications were approved by the PNG prime minister’s office the next day.
But it appears the applications stalled after being sent to the PNG Immigration and Citizenship Service.
A spokeswoman wrote to Fairfax on Friday to advise that ‘‘we are unable to process your applications due to a ban being imposed by the Foreign Minister on issuance of visas to foreign media personnel until further notice’’.
Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato defended the decision to Radio New Zealand International, saying the ban was temporary and would protect the country from misreporting, which could be ‘‘misinterpreted’’ by Papua New Guineans.
“There’s no need for the access,’’ Mr Pato said.
‘‘PNG’s a culture where we discuss, negotiate and compromise. So we don’t want any misreporting, as a consequence of which issues could be misinterpreted by our own people as well as by the outside world.
“And to work out those issues, we’ll do it ourselves first and then — when the time is right — everyone will be invited to come and see what we’ve achieved.”
Fairfax Media has appealed for the matter to be urgently reconsidered.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s office said: ‘‘We’re seeking further information — it’s a concern and our high commissioner is looking for more detail.’’