The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in noting concern about the dismissal of Anish Chand, a broadcast news veteran from Fiji TV, and the confirmed resignation of Ricardo Morris, a Suva based coordinator.
According to the PFF, Chand was given his termination notice on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, after voicing his concerns about the need for views from a broad cross section of society during the upcoming election. Morris resigned following political pressure and also resigned from his position as Regional Coordinator of the Pacific Freedom Forum.
Chand was dismissed following requests from Fijian Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
Previously Chand had been sidelined from newsroom work with Fiji TV following pressure from the Fijian regime over his reporting style.
Titi Gabi, PFF Chair said: "Journalists who make a point of calling for balanced coverage and inclusion of all viewpoints as a critical part of reporting elections are to be welcomed, not silenced, and elections observers and donors should note this frightening evidence of a gagged media."
In April, the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) ruled that Fiji TV was guilty of “hate speech” following the broadcast of political statements at a public meeting and 2013 MIDA threatened to revoke Fiji TV’s broadcasting license due to the coverage it was giving to the “opposition”. In the lead up to the election, MIDA announced it would establish a media monitoring unit to ensure all election reporting was unbiased, with fines and jail sentences threatened for breaches.
The IFJ said: “We urge the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) body to provide training on neutrality and media independence to the key officials in government and boards deciding who can be a broadcaster or media operator in Fiji. We also ask that MIDA investigate and publish findings on forced removals of journalists from Fiji TV in the last 12 months to uphold their own claims around media independence and freedom being protected during the election period.”
“The forced resignation of Anish Chand is a concern for Fiji’s press freedom and the freedom of expression in the lead up to Fiji’s historically significant election. Fiji’s Government must support press freedom and respect the role of journalists within the country. We hope the Government will be more open in their approach to journalists’ freedom.”