IFJ Condemns Detention of News Editor in Fiji

The International Federation

of Journalists (IFJ) joins Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in expressing alarm that

an editor of a prominent Fiji

online news agency was held for questioning overnight after publishing a report

about the nation’s police commissioner.

 

The move was enacted under the Fiji military regime’s controversial

Media Industry Development Decree, which sets fines and possible jail terms for

journalists and media organisations deemed to breach the regime’s media codes, including

its Media Code of Ethics and Practice.

 

State-run Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported that fijilive.com news

editor Richard Naidu was taken in on July 30 by the Criminal Investigations

Department and questioned over a report published on the site the previous day,

which alleged Police Commissioner Commodore Esala Teleni had been suspended.

Police said the allegation was incorrect, the report said.

 

Naidu was held overnight and questioned before he was released about

11am on July 31.

 

Regional press freedom group PFF

said in a statement that the detention of Naidu raised concerns about a

continuing campaign of intimidation and fear against Fiji’s journalists.

 

“The IFJ is deeply worried that Fiji’s

authorities were so quick to detain and hold overnight a journalist over a news report about which any complaints ought

to be dealt with by independent civil means,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

 

“Detention as a first resort about a complaint over media content is a troubling indication of

the manner in which Fiji’s authorities intend to apply the media decree and

control media output.

 

“The IFJ urges Fiji’s power holders to reconsider resort

to this contested and restrictive law and instead engage with media and civil

society to develop an independent regulatory system that can deal with

complaints in a way that promotes rather than stifles ethical journalism and

press freedom.”

 

Naidu’s detention was reportedly unrelated to the off-line status of fijilive.com

at the weekend, with the regime claiming not to be involved.

 

Fijilive.comwas not

included in a list of media groups that had registered with authorities by July

31, as required under the decree. The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported on

August 2 that
fijilive.comsources said the broadcaster

registered one day late, and took the website down while its application was

processed. Fijilive.com was back online on August 2.

 

Reports said the list of registered

organisations includes Fiji TV, Communications Fiji Ltd, Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, ALSA Ltd as Mai

Life Magazine, Mai TV, Active Media, Sporting Pulse, Islands Business,

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Half Time publications, and Bula Namaste.

 

Fijilive.com meanwhile reported on

August 2 that Professor Satendra Nandan, dean of Humanities at the University of Fiji, would not take up the position as chairman

of the decree’s enforcement body, the Media Industry Development Authority, for

health reasons. He has been replaced by Professor Subramani, a well-known

academic.

 

Other members of the

regime-nominated authority include Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde; Asilika

Uluilakeba, representing the interests of children; Jimaima Schultz,

representing consumers; Peni Moore, representing women; and Matai Akaoula,

manager and training coordinator for the Pacific Islands News Association

(PINA), representing the media industry.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries

 

Find the

IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific