Thursday, 16 April 2009 6:37 AM

Update: Fiji Military Tightens Grip on Media

The military in Fiji has tightened its grip on the country's media which started with newsrooms around the country being monitored and articles deemed critical of the president and military being pulled and this has escalated to the deportation of foreign journalists in the country.

Newsrooms around the country are being monitored with state authorities present to ensure articles deemed "inappropriate" are not published.
Newsrooms around the country responded to these clampdowns with its newspapers printing editions with several blank spaces where articles about the political situation would have been, stating government restrictions the reason.

The country's national television channel did not broadcast its nightly news bulletin on Sunday, showing instead a message on blanks screens stating there would be no news, later informing viewers that it was due to censorship.

The military's grip on the media has tightened with the deportation of foreign journalists.
According to the Australia Network News, Australian journalist, Sean Dorney, was deported from the country on Tuesday after Fiji's 'military-led government objected to his stories on its media crackdown and the censoring of local journalists'.

Mr. Dorney stated that the censorship "is just absolutely extraordinary, never in Fiji before has it been this tough, even after [Sitiveni] Rabuka's coup".
According to the report, Mr. Dorney says he was offered a deal where he could leave voluntarily but did not take it.

He later had his mobile phone confiscated and was held for about five hours with a TV crew from New Zealand, while officials reviewed footage shot on his camera.

He says things are even worse for local Fijian journalists.

He says the people of Fiji are unable to see any negative stories about the government.


Also, according to the report, Fijian journalist Edwin Nand spent a night in a police cell for reporting on Dorney's detention.
And a New Zealand television crew was deported after the government disagreed with their stories saying that the military ordered them to wipe all the material on their tapes.

According to Australia Network News, Fiji's military-led government has also shut down ABC Radio Australia's local FM transmitters in the country.
In addition, Bainimarama has blamed the media for the country's situation, stating that 'freedom of speech causes trouble'.

"That was how we ended up with what we came up with in the last couple of days," he told Radio New Zealand this morning.

"If we [the Government and the media] had worked together from 2006, we wouldn't have had that happen to us.

"The circumstances have changed. We [the Government] now decide what needs to be done for our country, for the reforms that need to be put in place for us to have a better Fiji.

"We want to come up with these reforms and the last thing we want to do is have opposition to these reforms throughout.

"So that was the reason we've come up with emergency regulations."


In other updates from Fiji, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji has been removed from his position and replaced by his Deputy.
According to Fiji Times Online, Mr. Narube was told to vacate his office as his 'appointment was made by the Constitutional Offices Commission, in accordance with the 1997 Constitution and this has been left void after the abrogation of the constitution'.

Also, the Fiji dollar has been devalued by 20 per cent effective immediately as announced by the country's Reserve Bank.

Letters to the Editor All Letters
By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province