IFJ Welcomes Australian Travel Writers’ Change of Plans

 

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) welcomes a decision by the Australian Society of Travel

Writers (ASTW) not to accept an offer to hold its annual general meeting in Fiji next year.

 

The IFJ and its affiliate, Australia’s Media Entertainment & Arts

Alliance, urged the society in September to rethink a proposal to conduct the

meeting in Fiji in view of the

Fiji

military regime’s strict censorship and restrictions on people’s access to

information.

 

The IFJ and the Alliance

alerted the society to the sharp deterioration in Fiji’s press freedom environment in

the preceding 18 months, especially since the regime imposed emergency regulations

in April 2009 and ordered journalists and media outlets to submit “sensitive”

news reports to officials. Full-time censors remain in newsrooms in Fiji.

 

The

ASTW’s decision has subsequently drawn criticism from Tourism Fiji, whose

regional director, Paresh Pant, wrote to the society and accused it of

“hypocrisy”.

 

Pant’s

letter says, “Why should Fiji,

where both its citizens and hundreds of thousands of international visitors

enjoy a very safe and peaceful environment, attract so much resentment from

elements of the membership of an organisation which clearly states and prides

itself in its position as an ‘apolitical’ organisation.”


The letter, also noted concerns about the IFJ’s request to the ASTW to

reconsider the meeting’s location.

 

“The Alliance and the IFJ understand

that the ASTW reached its decision with great difficulty, but appreciates the

society’s recognition of the concerns expressed by some of its members that Fiji is an unsuitable location in which to conduct a

meeting of professional journalists and writers while harsh restrictions on the

media remain in place,” Alliance Federal Secretary

and IFJ Asia-Pacific Steering

Committee member Christopher Warren said.

 

“The ASTW has done the right thing.”

 

Over 2008 and 2009, authorities in Fiji have

conducted police raids on media offices, deported publishers and editors, called

for media houses to be shut down, and banned some foreign journalists, before

imposing all-out censorship in April 2009.

 

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide