Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is deeply concerned about the press freedom
situation in Fiji
as two newspapers, their editors and publishers face jail terms and hefty fines
for contempt of court charges.
The charges, which are being pursued by the Attorney-General’s
office, refer to publication by the Fiji
Times and the Fiji Daily Post in
October of a letter to the editor which criticised a High Court ruling
upholding the legality of Fiji’s 2006 military coup.
charges cite Fiji Times editor Netani
Rika and publisher Rex Gardner, as well as Post editor Robert Wolfgramm and Australian-based publisher Allan Hickling.
newspapers have been ordered to disclose details of the letter’s author, who is
believed to live in Australia.
Post is expected to make its first
appearance in court today, while the Fiji
Times case is scheduled for a continued hearing on December 4, according to
Action is continuing against the Fiji Times despite the newspaper the printing a front-page article
in early November which accepted that the paper was in contempt when it
published the letter. The paper also offered to pay costs.
The IFJ is concerned that Fiji’s military government is
systematically seeking to silence independent media reporting. Earlier in 2008,
it deported Fiji Sun publisher and
managing director Russell Hunter and Fiji
Times publisher Evan Hannah.
“Efforts by Fiji’s
military government to coerce media and journalists to toe the line are a
direct attack on press freedom, journalists and the rights of members of the
public to know what is happening in their country,” IFJ
“The interim Attorney-General’s pursuit of jail terms and large
fines against newspapers that published a critical opinion underscores the lengths
to which Fiji’s authorities are prepared to go to censor information and
promote a climate of fear among the media and the wider public.”
The IFJ is also concerned that while the Attorney-General’s
Office is seeking to silence critical commentary, it is also drafting a new media
law without sufficient consultation with Fiji’s media community. The law is
expected to be made public in December.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents over 600,000 journalists in
120 countries worldwide