Journalists welcomed back to Fiji

April 16, 2009
Article from: Australian Associated Press
FIJI’S military regime has done an about face and welcomed international media into the troubled country just days after journalists were deported.

spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said on Thursday that foreign media representatives were “most welcome” to visit Fiji under the new public emergency regulations in place since political upheaval over Easter.

He denied journalists, such as ABC correspondent Sean Dorney, had been deported, saying:
“Government has not stopped foreign media representatives prior to the emergency regulations and even under the current circumstances.”

“They are most welcome to visit Fiji.”

“What is important is for them to understand Fiji’s situation and to report accurately and responsibly,” Major Leweni said in a statement.

In an apparent about face, he said it was important for the foreign media to see for themselves that life was “moving on as normal” in the country.

The move comes as Sitiveni Rabuka, the former prime minister who overthrew the Fijian government during two coups, told The Australian the crackdown on the media was unnecessary.

On Tuesday, the interim regime expelled Dorney, and a New Zealand journalist and cameraman after telling the media pack they were unhappy with their “negative” coverage of the upheaval.

Harsh media censorship is still in place for local journalists, who must have stories vetted by government officials and have been warned against any negative portrayals of the government.

Several journalists have been detained and questioned and efforts have been made to stop locals and tourists accessing news via the internet.

Under the new international allowance, individual applications will be endorsed “based on how they have reported about Fiji in the past, if they have, or on the undertaking that they will report accurately and responsibly,” Major Leweni said.

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