Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Fiji
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1998|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Fiji, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5653428.html [accessed 18 December 2014]|
Despite moves by the government of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka toward liberalization and greater democracy, relations between Fiji's government and the press remain tense. Harassment of the country's largest daily newspaper, the Fiji Times, continued and harsh press regulations remain on the books and are a potential threat to the media.
Widely hailed constitutional reforms that went into effect in July ended indigenous Fijians' domination of the government and brought to a close a period of military-dominated rule that began when Rabuka led a military coup in 1987 and substantially limited civil liberties for the country's sizable Indian minority. Fiji rejoined the British Commonwealth in September, and Rabuka formally apologized to Queen Elizabeth for ousting her as head of state in the 1987 coup. In this more liberal environment, Fiji's information minister announced in December that proposals for strict media licensing laws were likely to be shelved by the government.
The Fiji Times, however, has repeatedly come under fire from the government for its coverage of parliamentary activity. Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in February accused the newspaper of breaching parliamentary privilege, which is a crime in Fiji, in its reporting on the debate over the country's new constitution. Fiji Times publisher Alan Robinson, editor Samisoni Kakaivalu, and public affairs reporter Jo Nata could be jailed for up to two years under Fiji's Parliamentary Privileges Act. In October, the Fijian Senate again formally threatened to file further breach of parliamentary privilege charges against Robinson and Kakaivulu over a report in the Times that questioned the senate's efficiency. In addition, some senators have publicly castigated the Fiji Times because it is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and is thus a "foreign" entity.
Mike Field, a New Zealand-based correspondent for Agence France-Presse who was briefly detained and denied entry to Fiji in 1996, told CPJ in a telephone interview that he is still on a government "watch" list of allegedly hostile journalists. He has been denied a work permit, which is necessary for foreign correspondents covering Fiji, although he has been allowed into the country on a tourist visa. "There is a deep resentment of the press in Fiji and it's getting worse," Field said.