IFJ Demands Fiji Regime Reverse Media Clampdown

The unprecedented clampdown on the

media in Fiji at the weekend

underscores the unwillingness of Fiji’s military leadership to uphold

long-promised democratic reform in the Pacific island nation, the International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said today.

 

“Press freedom in Fiji is in

tatters. The repressive actions taken against Fiji’s media at the weekend give

the lie to promises by the military government throughout the past year that it

would support press freedom and media professionalism as essential components

of the country’s return to democratic rule,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“But now, the draconian and

reprehensible manner in which the military leadership is seeking to control

information about highly significant events and issues in Fiji is comparable to the actions of other

dictatorial regimes and closed societies, including Burma,

North Korea and Zimbabwe.”

 

Following an appeals court ruling on April 9 which declared

the 2006 coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama was illegal, President Ratu

Josefa Iloilo abrogated Fiji’s

1997 Constitution, sacked the nation's judges, declared himself head of state.

He reappointed Bainimarama as prime minister on April 11.

 

Ministry of Information officials and the police immediately

imposed sweeping censorship of the media and installed censors in newsrooms.

The media was warned not to publish or broadcast "negative" reports

about the President’s actions and the appointments of Bainimarama and the Cabinet.

 

Under 30-day Public Emergency Regulations, journalists are now

required to submit “sensitive” news reports to government officials for

approval. Media organisations could be shut down if official directives are

ignored.

 

Newspapers and television outlets protested by refusing to

broadcast news bulletins and carrying blank pages and spaces in newspapers. A

blank page in the Sunday Times simply

included a line declaring, “The stories on this page could not be published due

to government restrictions.”

 

However, most organisations are no longer running political

reports. Local media personnel are privately reporting a “climate of silence” has

gripped some newsrooms.

 

Veteran Pacific affairs correspondent Sean Dorney, of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and reporter Sia Aston and cameraman Matt Smith, of New Zealand’s TV3,

were due to be deported today. Their news reports over the weekend detailed the

extent of the media clampdown.

 

The IFJ is extremely concerned about the impacts of denying

information to people in Fiji

and the well-being of media personnel who seek to do their jobs amid a climate

of fear and persecution.

The IFJ joins journalists and media

organisations throughout the region, including IFJ affiliates in New Zealand

and Australia – the NZ Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) and

the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA)

 the Pacific Media Centre (PMC), Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF),the Pacific Islands News

Association (PINA) and the Fiji Media Councilin demanding that the Bainimaramaregime immediately

end all restrictions on Fiji’s news media and allow local and foreign journalists

to do their jobs in the public interest.

 

The crisis in Fiji follows more than a year of systematic and increasingly severe efforts by

the military leadership to silence independent reporting by local and foreign

media personnel and commentary by members of the public who dare to question

the regime’s legitimacy.

 

Anti-media actions have included

deportations of publishers and editors, refusal of entry to foreign media

personnel, police searches of newsrooms, contempt of court rulings, and public

comments by military officers suggesting critical media must be shut down.

 

Safety concerns have increased

since a firebomb attack by unknown assailants on the home of the

editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times, Netani Rika, on March 23. The bomb failed to ignite.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide