Fiji hits back at media reports of a bullying state

  • Michael McKenna
  • From: The Australian

THE Fijian military regime has accused the Australian government and media of inciting revolution and promoting unrest in the troubled island nation.

Self-appointed ruler Frank Bainimarama yesterday joined a chorus of his ministers and bureaucrats in condemning coverage of his government, particularly since the imposition of a crackdown on local media in Fiji last week. Commodore Bainimarama, Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola and Information Department Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns — an Australian expatriate who is in charge of the local press crackdown — have attacked reports, published by News Limited and Fairfax.

In a statement, Commodore Bainimarama also called on the Australian government to “refrain from interfering with” Fiji’s internal affairs after an unnamed Australian Foreign Affairs official said in an article in The Australian on Monday: “The sad fact is that if the economy gets really bad, then the people may have no choice but to stand up to him and his thugs.”

“This statement the Prime Minister said is inciting the people of Fiji to rise against my government, and promoting further unrest,” the Fijian regime’s statement said.

“Commodore Bainimarama said by calling my government ministers ‘thugs’ is derogatory, mischievous and portrays the condescending attitude of the Australian government.”

On Monday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also complained to this newspaper about the quote in the feature-length article on Fiji, titled “Perfect One Day, Brutal the Next”. The report details the history of the Bainimarama regime, which overthrew an elected government in 2006, and the subsequent human rights abuses.

Mr Kubuabola also criticised an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, which reported details of decrees imposed on the population by the regime, and the arrest of a Fijian pastor. He said the articles were damaging the local tourism industry and questioned the motivation of reporters, in a reference to the recent decree that may force the closure of The Fiji Times, a News Limited newspaper.


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