International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on Fiji’s interim military government to
put an immediate stop to efforts to shut down the country’s independent media, following
a call by a senior Army officer for the closure of the Fiji Times.
to local media reports, the Land Force Commander of Fiji’s Military Forces,
Colonel Pita Driti, issued a media statement on March 25 attacking the Fiji Times, saying it was “the most
non-cooperative and biased newspaper in the country”. He alleged that the media
did not give adequate coverage to military “grievances” or “positive achievements”.
editor, Netani Rika, said Driti’s comments were unfortunate. He said the Fiji Times sought to give fair coverage on
all issues and incidents involving the Army and interim administration, and he invited
Driti to be more specific about his complaints.
The IFJ is extremely
concerned for the safety and integrity of Fiji’s media, and urges the interim
military government to instruct all officials and senior military personnel to refrain
from making or endorsing statements that demand censorship and serve to incite
“Colonel Pita Driti’s public call for a newspaper to be shut
down because he apparently does not agree with its content demonstrates a gross
misunderstanding of the role of independent media in an open society,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
“This kind of
comment by a high-ranking military officer appears intended to intimidate the
media community, and is irresponsible given recent physical attacks on media
“The IFJ urges Fiji’s interim military leaders to make a public
commitment to the protection of media personnel and freedom of expression in Fiji.”
Driti’s statement comes after more
than a year of systematic anti-media actions by the interim military government
of Commodore Frank
Bainimarama. In particular, there has been a campaign to intimidate and
undermine the Fiji Times, with the
deportation of one publisher last May and another in
January, the newspaper’s conviction on contempt charges
for publishing a letter critical of a court ruling upholding the legality of
Fiji’s 2006 military coup, and police searches of the paper’s offices and questioning of the
editor earlier this month.
It also follows a firebomb
attack by unknown assailants on Rika’s home on March 23, in which bottles
filled with kerosene and sugar failed to ignite, and the smashing of Rika’s car on March 10.
statement, Driti also expressed dissatisfaction with the Fiji Media Council and
its advice to political parties and stakeholders on dealing with complaints
about the media.
The IFJ reiterates that complaints
against the media must be dealt with through an open dialogue and independent
regulatory mechanisms. Shutting down media, deporting publishers and seeking court
convictions only take Fiji
further along the path toward a closed society.
For further information
contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612
represents over 600,000 journalists in
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