Fiji journalists threatened days out of first national election in a decade

The International Federation of Journalists has criticized the political environment in Fiji in the lead-up to the country’s first democratic elections in a decade, after two female reporters received death threats for their coverage. A Fiji Sun and a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation journalist each received death threats via telephone and through social media this week.

Vosita Kotoiwasawasa, from the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, and the Fiji Sun’s West Editor, Jyoti Pratibha, each received threats after they reported that SODELPA leader Ro Teimumu Kepa had pulled out of a live television debate with the country’s interim Prime Minister “Frank” Voreqe Bainimarama. Kotoiwasawasa was subjected to threatening telephone calls and Pratibha was the target of assault and threats on the Facebook wall of SODELPA youth representative Pita Waqavonovono. Her photo was also widely circulated on social media. Following the threats, Pratibha was given security by the Fiji Sun for extra safety.

Next week’s election will be the first in Fiji since Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a military coup in 2006.

The IFJ has welcomed the Fiji Sun’s response to the threats and called on all media in Fiji to ensure all staff are protected and threats reported to authorities for investigation.

The President of the Fijian Media Association, Ricardo Morris, said: “We understand there is unhappiness and anger at some of the reports written by our colleague Jyoti. However, those aggrieved can respond strongly and make their feelings known in a proper way without resorting to threats to kill journalists or cause them or their family physical harm.”

IFJ Asia Pacific Acting Director, Jane Worthington, said death threats against journalists should not be taken lightly and were indicative of a hostile environment toward media workers.

Journalists have faced significant challenges in Fiji’s recent history including during the 2000 and 2006 coups as well as during general elections. The Fiji Government under the former military commander, now interim prime minister, Bainimarama has replaced the constitution, suppressed the media and compromised the country’s judiciary.

Early this year two veteran Fijian reporters were ousted from Fiji TV following political interference. One reporter was terminated after he called for balanced reporting in the lead up to the elections. Australia’s ABC former pacific correspondent Sean Dorney was also banned from reporting in Fiji, as was Fairfax's New Zealand-based Pacific correspondent, Michael Field.

“As Fiji goes into this significant election, we call on all political parties to respect the role of the media and the right to free expression in Fiji and allow them to go about the important task of documenting this juncture in the country’s political history.” 

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0946 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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