Freedom of the Press 2008 - Fiji
|Publication Date||29 April 2008|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - Fiji, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f60228.html [accessed 23 May 2015]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 11 (of 30)
Political Environment: 18 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 8 (of 30)
Total Score: 37 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
Press freedom in Fiji recovered somewhat from a major reversal suffered in 2006 as a result of a coup by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. Following a significant tightening of the media environment at the end of 2006 and the early part of 2007, the latter part of the year was marked by a reduction of government pressure and an improved legal environment. In December 2006, the country endured its fourth coup in almost two decades when the democratically elected government of Laisenia Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party was ousted. Immediately following the takeover, the 1999 constitution appeared to have been suspended, removing legal protections for journalists such as provisions in the bill of rights guaranteeing free speech. However, during 2007, the post-coup regime asserted that the constitution had not been suspended, thereby restoring some legal rights. Nevertheless, in August, the Fiji Human Rights Commission, widely regarded as holding a progovernment stance commissioned a report entitled "Freedom and Independence of the Media in Fiji." The report, whose final version had not been publicly released at year's end, was considered by news media and the self-regulatory Fiji Media Council as an attempt to restrict media freedom.
Despite increased security in the legal sphere, there were several reports of soldiers harassing and threatening journalists and activists regarded as overly critical of the government, reportedly contributing to self-censorship. In one incident, Richard Naid, a prominent media lawyer and former journalist who advises Fiji's largest daily newspaper, The Fiji Times, was seized by the military and intimidated. Fiji Television's news director, Netani Rika, was also reportedly brought in for questioning by the military in 2007. In June, foreign journalist Michael Field, a correspondent for Fairfax Media in Auckland was reportedly detained and then expelled after seeking to cover the expulsion of New Zealand's high commissioner, apparently for publicly criticizing the coup. The harassment, particularly intense in the months immediately after the country's coup on December 5, 2006, eased later in the year as the interim administration became more secure in its political and legal control.
In spite of the coup, the economic climate for independently owned media remained stable. The state-run Fiji Broadcasting Corporation operates three main radio stations in English, Fijian, and Hindustani; the state also runs three national newspapers. These compete with two private national newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun, as well as a privately owned FM broadcaster, Communications Fiji Ltd. The Fijian investment group Yasana Holdings holds a controlling 51 percent stake in Fiji TV, while the government owns 14 percent but plans to sell its stake. According to the U.S. State Department, the government has been known to direct advertising to media outlets in which it has a stake.
In 2007, nearly 9 percent of the population was able to access the internet. Though there were no restrictions on access to the internet, during the year, the authorities attempted to shut down several pro-democracy blogs that emerged in response to the coup. According to the U.S. State department, the military closely monitored communications on the sites and in at least one instance, a businessman accused of contributing to one such blog was detained at an army camp and abused. Several other individuals involved with the blogs were also reportedly threatened or intimidated.