New York, May 13, 2009--Fiji's military government, which has been questioning several local journalists in custody, should immediately rescind emergency regulations censoring the island nation's media, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At least a dozen local journalists have been interrogated by police since the regulations came into force on April 10, according to The Associated Press. Initially introduced for 30 days but recently extended until June 10, the regulations forbid "negative" reports about the military regime and give government censors discretion over all news content, according to international news reports. Three foreign journalists were also deported last month and police briefly detained Fiji TV journalist Edwin Nand for publishing an interview with one of the deportees, according to international news reports.
"Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama must halt this blatant intimidation
and silencing his critics," said
The military regime's rules--which abrogate the constitution--were enforced the day after top judges declared its 2006 coup, led by Bainimarama, and subsequent interim rule, illegal, according to international news reports.
Restrictions on news outlets will be lifted only if they comply with standards set by the Ministry of Information, government spokesman Lt. Col. Neumi Leweni told the Fijilive news Web site today. "At the moment you can say it is censorship," Leweni said.
At least two journalists were held recently for two days
before being released. Police in the capital,
The PACNEWS news agency, run by the Pacific Islands News
Association, announced today that it was relocating outside of
A meeting held in early May by the Pacific Freedom Forum--which took place in Samoa instead of Fiji due to the political climate--hosted Times editor Netani Rika, who described the pressures his newspaper faced, including inconsistent censors and the growth of blogs filling the void with rumor as well as news, according to the international blog aggregator Web site Global Voices Online, which analyzed online reactions to the forum. Rika said the government has ordered Internet cafes to close at 6 p.m. to limit the exchange of views that were not subjected to Ministry of Information clearance, according to a transcript of his script published by the Coup Four and a Half blog.