The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is increasingly alarmed at the deteriorating
press freedom environment in Fiji
as authorities deported the publisher of The
Fiji Times today. It is the third deportation of a senior newsman in less
than a year.
Rex Gardner, the publisher and
acting CEO of The Fiji Times, was
deported to Sydney, Australia, after being declared a
prohibited immigrant. Gardner
is an Australian citizen.
follows on the heels of a court ruling on January 22 in which he and The Fiji Times were convicted for
contempt of court for publishing a letter to the editor which criticised a High
Court ruling upholding the legality of Fiji’s 2006 military coup.
Gardner was discharged on a good
behaviour bond while The Fiji Times was given 27 days to pay a fine of FJ$100,000 (about US$54,000).
reason was given for my deportation and I probably won't get one either -
because that's the way they operate, the dark of night and this sort of
said, according to news reports.
“The actions of Fiji’s military government are pushing the
already-starved information consumers of Fiji further into the dark about
issues surrounding the workings of the interim government and deny the public a
fully independent and critical media. Fiji’s
military government appears to be trying to turn Fiji into a closed society,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said
deportation order cites section 13(2)(g) of Fiji’s Immigration Act, which
refers to the removal of people deemed to pose a potential threat to the
Fiji’s authorities used the
same tactic to clamp down on critical and independent media throughout 2008.
In May, Gardner’s predecessor at The Fiji Times, Evan Hannah, was deported under the same section of
the Immigration Act.
In February, Russell Hunter, also an
Australian citizen and publisher
and managing director of The Fiji Sun,
was deported as a “prohibited immigrant”. He was accused of being
a threat to national security.
In December, Barbara Dreaver, the
Pacific Affairs correspondent for Television New Zealand One, was detained at Fiji’s Nadi Airport
and refused entry into the country.
“The deportation of Rex Gardner
further underscores the lengths to which Fiji’s authorities are prepared to
go to punish media that does not toe the government line,” Park said.
deportation came as a meeting of the Pacific Forum was to
be held in Papua New Guinea today
to discuss the failure of Fiji’s
interim military government to restore democracy. Frank Bainimarama, who led
the 2006 coup and heads Fiji’s
military government, declined to attend the PNG meeting.
Bainimarama has said in the past
that the interim government is committed to media freedom but that there are
limitations to constitutional guarantees on freedom of the press.
The IFJ calls on Fiji’s authorities to make transparent the real
reasons for deporting Gardner, and to desist
from their efforts to silence independent media in Fiji.
The IFJ also appeals to all
leaders of Pacific island countries to work together to protect the right of
all people in Fiji to enjoy a free media and freedom of expression.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide