Crackdown on Press Freedom in Fijian Military Coup

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has slammed moves by the Fijian military to crackdown on the media in the final stages of the military coup in Fiji, which stripped Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of his powers and removed him from the capital.

IFJ sources at Fiji TV and the Fiji Times confirmed that military personnel moved into the newsrooms of media outlets late afternoon on December 5 and issued a directive that all news items would now be screened by the military before being aired or published.

“Despite claims by the military that their presence at media outlets is to protect personnel from ‘dissidents’, this is clearly an infringement on the rights of journalists to disseminate the news and an attempt to control and manipulate the media, which will not be tolerated,” IFJ President Christopher Warren said.

According to IFJ sources, journalists at Fiji TV the Fiji Times have refused to comply with the military's demands, taking the stand that they will not work if there is military presence in the newsroom.

The military has also reportedly demanded that nothing negative be aired or published against the commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, or his takeover, and local journalists report they have been warned not to publish any condemnation by local and international NGOs.

“The IFJ calls on the military to immediately remove all presence in Fiji’s newsrooms, and withdraw all directives about what can and cannot be reported,” the IFJ president said.

Fiji TV, in response to the demands, did not run its 10pm bulletin on December 5, and according to IFJ sources the station will not air bulletins until the military removes its censorship. The Fiji Times did not publish today’s edition and have also made similar commitment to halt publication until full media rights are restored.

The day before, on December 4 the Fiji Daily Post was forced to close their head office in Suva after receiving violent threats from the Fijian military.
“The commander must understand that the confusion and uncertainty of the current political climate will only be overcome by giving the media the freedom and autonomy to report safely and accurately, thereby maintaining an informed Fijian public and international community,” Warren said.

“Blatant censorship and intimidation is not the answer and the IFJ demands that Commodore Frank Bainimarama remove his troops from media offices immediately, and show the world he respects and understands the importance of freedom of expression,” said the president of the IFJ, the organisation representing more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries.

“An unrestricted, free and independent media for Fiji is more important now than ever, and the IFJ sends its full support to all journalists working in Fiji and assure our colleagues that they stand united with the world’s journalists in their demands for press freedom and a peaceful and safe Fiji,” he said.

For more information please contact IFJ Asia Pacific +61 2 9333 0919

The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 115 countries