Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2003 - Fiji
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Reporters Without Borders Annual Report 2003 - Fiji, 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46e6914b23.html [accessed 21 August 2014]|
Fijian journalists have recovered the freedom to speak out that they lost at the time of the May 2000 coup d'état. But the government kept its television monopoly and stake in several newspapers, including the Daily Post and the Sun. Repeated threats against journalists by politicians showed that press freedom was not truly accepted by the political class.
Plainclothes police searched the house and office of Usman Ali, correspondent of the Daily Post in Lautoka (west of the capital, Suva) on 14 April 2002, saying they were looking for documents about the government firm Airports Fiji. Ali had written an article a few months earlier based on an official report. He refused to say where he got the report from.
The Daily Post reported on its front page on 22 April that its reporter Josephine Prasad had been threatened with arrest by Criminal Investigation Director Emosi Vunisa if she did not hand over documents and disclose her sources about Lt. Col. Filipo Tarakinikini, an exiled former rebel army officer. The day before, she had written in the paper that an Interpol agent had been sent to the United States to bring him back to Fiji in connection with his part in the May 2000 coup d'état.
Rebel soldier Filimoni Tikoti was charged in May with attempted murder for firing a gun at reporter Jerry Harmer, of Associated Press Television News (APTN), during the 2000 coup d'état. By the end of the year, the trial had not begun.
Assistant works minister Simione Kaitani made an attack in parliament on 25 July on the local media's coverage of the Africa-Caribbean-Pacific summit being held in Fiji, accusing the press of supporting the opposition and destabilising the country instead of reporting fairly on the summit. He said there was collusion between the media and demonstrators which showed there was a plot against the government.
Government senator Mitieli Balaunauca called journalists "mad crazy loonies and stupid people" as well as being "agents of Satan" on 29 August and accused editors, publishers, reporters and advertisers of being racists and naive amateurs undermining the fabric of life in Fiji. Four days earlier, another senator, the Rev. Tomasi Kanailagi, former head of the Methodist Church in Fiji, accused the daily paper Fiji Times and TV station Fiji One of being "agents of evil" for reporting lax accounting by the Methodists. The Fiji Times had also run several strong editorials about the practice of "tithing" by the churches. Also in August, one of the paper's photographers was roughly evicted from the Methodist annual conference in Suva.
The High Court rejected on 7 December a request by the Suva prosecutor to ban media coverage of the trial of nationalist politician Viliame Savu and journalist Jo Nata for supporting the 2000 coup d'état by businessman George Speight. The request was accompanied by copies of what the prosecutor said were offensive reports by the Fiji Times, the Daily Post and Fiji Television.