Pacific Freedom Forum
PFF warns against growing culture of intimidation in Fiji
Friday 31 October, 2008: Leaders in Fiji's interim government should respect and safeguard the right to freedom of expression as enshrined in the islands' constitution, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.
The PFF says the current push by Fiji's interim Attorney-General Aihaz Sayed-Khaiyum to force disclosure on a letter to the Editor published in the Fiji Times is fuelling an ongoing campaign of intimidation against the media in Fiji.
"Seeking a court order to force a newspaper to divulge information given in the assurance that the source of the information would be kept confidential seems a bit heavy handed," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea.
"Coming as it is following the forceful and inhumane deportation of two newspaper publishers from Fiji, the court order seems to perpetuate the culture of threats and intimidation that our colleagues in Fiji have been subjected to since the overthrow of the country's elected government in December 2006," added Laumaea, who hails from a newspaper background in Papua New Guinea.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller, a Samoan radio journalist and past president of the Pacific Islands News Association encouraged the AG to make use of existing public complaint procedures on media practice, via the Fiji Media Council.
"We urge the interim Attorney General Aihaz Sayed-Khaiyum as well as interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama to respect the people's right to express themselves freely without fear or intimidation," said Miller.
"We know Fiji has serious issues to deal with and we the members of the Forum respectfully submit that our colleagues in Fiji should be able to report fearlessly and responsibly.
"We do not think that securing a court order to force a newspaper to divulge its sources augurs well for media freedom in Fiji or for any other Pacific island nation for that matter," she says, "and we support the role of all AGs in the region to ensure that the rule of law exists to protect -- not to abuse -- the freedom granted by our Pacific constitutions."
Miller and Laumaea were responding to a Fiji Government statement on October 24 which stated that Attorney General Sayed-Khaiyum had asked the Fiji High Court to charge the Fiji Times newspaper for contempt.
It follows the publication of a letter to the editor by the newspaper, supposedly critical of the recent High Court decision on the appointment of the interim government now running Fiji.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also wanted the Fiji Times to reveal the full details of the author of the letter.
PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea
Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email: email@example.com
PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.
We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.
In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.