Censors patrol Fiji newsrooms

Paul Maley | April 13, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

FIJI’S military rulers have imposed draconian new censorship measures on the Pacific nation, posting police in the offices of media outlets and cracking down on criticism of the regime.

Kevin Rudd yesterday condemned the reappointment of military chief Frank Bainimarama as Prime Minister and his clampdown on opponents, which followed a move by Fiji’s president to abrogate the constitution and sack the nation’s top judges.

“Australia condemns unequivocally this action by the military ruler of Fiji to turn this great country, Fiji, into virtually a military dictatorship,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Rudd’s remarks came after Commodore Bainimarama, the 2006 coup leader whose rule was last week declared unlawful, announced a state of emergency, including the granting of extra detention powers to police.

Foreign media were banned from Commodore Bainimarama’s swearing-in on Saturday in yet another sign the regime is intent on stifling criticism and curbing press freedoms.

Last Thursday, Fiji was plunged into fresh political chaos when Commodore Bainimarama’s close ally, president Josefa Iloilo, sacked Fiji’s three-judge Court of Appeal after it ruled the country’s military regime was illegally appointed following the coup in December 2006, the fourth coup since 1987.

Mr Iloilo has promised to hold democratic elections by 2014.

He said the 30-day state of emergency would allow authorities to ban any news deemed likely to cause “disorder” or “promote disaffection or public alarm or undermine the Government or the state of Fiji”.

That decree was given immediate effect yesterday, with the Sunday edition of Fiji’s largest newspaper, The Fiji Times, owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian, appearing with several blank spaces after police censors pulled stories deemed critical of the regime.

It is understood that police liaison officers accompanied by uniformed police have been in the offices of the Times, as well as other newsrooms, vetting news items before they are published or broadcast.

“They were in on Friday night, they were in (Saturday) night and they’ll be back again today,” one source told The Australian.

News spokesman Greg Baxter said: “For the time being, we are acquiescing to the demands of the censor, given the direct threat to the safety of our staff that will arise if we don’t.”

Fiji’s Ministry of Information sent at least one news outlet a communique forbidding it to publish any “negative” reaction to the swearing-in of Commodore Bainimarama. Some of the material, such as the reaction of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is freely available on the internet.

It is understood Times journalists were also prevented from photographing the police in the newsroom.

Yesterday, viewers of the TV channel Fiji One were told there would be no 6pm news.

Media outlets in Fiji are frequently subject to intimidation.

Last year, the publisher and managing director of the Fiji Times, Evan Hannah, was deported following a series of editorials calling for a return to democracy. A few months earlier, Russell Hunter, the managing director and publisher of the Fiji Sun, was deported in similar circumstances.

Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte said he was “appalled” at the restrictions on press freedoms.

Australia’s Right to Know media coalition also condemned the “unparalleled, unprovoked and unwarranted” moves to impose a military dictatorship in Fiji.



  1. Relax Man Says:

    Yes!! at last we can relax reading the papers instead of political rubbish theu’re usually commenting on, Good on you Sun!!! no more politics.

  2. Bruce's boss Says:

    Relax man

    Good to see the IG reading the blog sites – to get the news they can’t from the papers now. Maybe also they will actually learn something? A faint hope there…

  3. Budhau Says:

    Relax, I think it is some of you idiots who should relax, take deep breath, realize that shit happens and figure out where do we go from here.

    Does anyone learn anything in Fiji, not for the last 20 years – hopefully this time they will – Put in “unemployable imbeciles” who are then control by a small group of folks with vested interest or we can try and create a progressive, just and fair society.

    …those attacks, like the “good to see the IG is reading”… you are not alone, most of the time, rather than trying to reinforce their arguments, they start of with this tactic – you see that all the time.

    Listen guy, there is leadership vacuum in the Fijian community – the chiefs are on the way out, you don’t want them Methodist crowd, and now even folks like Taniela Tabu have started to look like leaders.

  4. Relax Man Says:

    IG get their rocks off reading pathetic stuff on this site, eh Bruce Boss???

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