NOOSA - The government of Vanuatu, having previously blocked Vanuatu Daily Post senior journalist Dan McGarry from working in the country, has now doubled down on that decision by preventing him from returning home to Port Vila.
Mr McGarry had, of all things, been attending a media freedom conference in Brisbane when the Vanuatu government denied his right to return to Vanuatu to be with his family.
This is seen in the Pacific media community as a malicious act in regard to the McGarry family as well as an attack on journalism in the Pacific region.
McGarry has annoyed Vanuatu’s government in a series of Daily Post reports that raised concerns about growing Chinese influence in the country.
The prime minister and other senior officials complained stridently to McGarry about this reporting and have now moved to silence him and issue a warning to other journalists.
McGarry was media director of the Daily Post, Vanuatu’s only daily newspaper, until just over a week ago, when labour commissioner Muriel Meltenoven refused to renew his annual work permit and cancelled his residence visa.
McGarry, a Canadian who had lived in Vanuatu for 16 years, was in the process of applying for dual Vanuatu citizenship.
When he attempted to check in to a Virgin Australia flight to Port Vila on Sunday, airline staff told him that Vanuatu immigration had issued a notice barring him.
“I have every right to be in Vanuatu with my family,” McGarry said. “I’ve done nothing wrong. Everyone knows that.
“They’re doing what every guilty-minded government does when faced with inconvenient facts: they’d rather shut me up—and shut me out—than engage honestly with the public about the stories we report.”
Now McGarry and his family don’t know when they’ll be reunited.
“Even thinking about it brings me to tears,” said McGarry.
“I had to Skype my partner and our two kids after she got back alone, and the moment we saw each other, we all just started bawling.
“They keep asking when I’m coming home and I don’t know what to tell them.
“It’s just plain cruel to make innocent children suffer merely because we printed an uncomfortable truth,” he said. “I don’t understand how anyone could act like that.”
Lawyers acting for McGarry and the Daily Post are preparing to defend his right to rejoin his family.