THERE is only one way of interpreting the latest move by the bullies running Fiji.
It is an astounding tribute to the fear that a free press – even a censored press – can instil in the hearts of tyrants.
It proves that media freedom is the natural friend of the civil society that Fiji’s dictators are trying hard to bury. And it shows that newspapers are much more than a commercial enterprise.
This amounts to a retrospective expropriation of foreign investment that cannot be ignored by leading democracies, let alone the world’s capital markets.
There seems to be no limit to the ability of the Fiji regime to dream up ideas that will inevitably hurt its own people. It has a shocking record: an elected government was overthrown, the last remnant of judicial independence has been demolished and the country’s leading lawyers have been intimidated. The last Australians and New Zealanders who were part of the independent judiciary left the country long ago. They have been replaced by more malleable folk.
It seems clear that Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was not satisfied with merely removing critical articles from the Fiji Times. He wanted praise and acceptance for his regime as a legitimate government that was pledged to reform past wrongs.
This regime seems to think that, once the pernicious influence of foreigners is removed, it will have far more success in encouraging the media to see things their way.
But if respect and legitimacy is the goal, this move is a step in the wrong direction.
It will give the regime’s opponents a powerful new ally. Until now, Fiji had been doing its best to persuade the international business community that it was business as usual. World capital markets and ratings agencies will now be forced to take account of the fact that there is no doubt that capital is no longer safe in Fiji.
This may well cause more dislocation to Fiji than any move against the country’s judiciary.
Fiji’s coupmakers are a threat to international business.
- Chris Merritt
- From: The Australian