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A screengrab from a TVNZ Breakfast interview with Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, above, shows blank spaces left in Fiji Times after censorship from regime "information officers." A Fiji media worker was later detained for sending this footage to TVNZ.
Pacific Freedom Forum
No room for military in news rooms, urges Pacific Freedom Forum
For immediate release: Tuesday 14 April 2009: A Pacific media freedom and advocacy organization, the Pacific Freedom Forum, has expressed deep sadness and outrage at developments in Fiji over Easter. They say more Pacific organisations and governments must ensure Fiji's people are left in no doubt whose side the people of the Pacific are on.
"As Pacific neighbours, we must not consider renewed intimidation of Fiji media a sovereign issue – what is happening there affects us all and we thank the Secretary General of the Pacific Forum for noting the special concern over curtailment of media freedoms in his statement on this matter," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea.
He says the Pacific Freedom Forum, along with other media freedom organizations world wide, "is horrified at the installation of censors in Fiji Newsrooms following the Easter abrogation of Fiji's 1997 Constitution, the deportation of more journalists whose news feeds inform Pacific nations including Fiji, and the re-installation of the military government ."
"This is the age of the Internet, and satellite broadcasting is widely received across Fiji, so locals will get their news from overseas sources almost as easily as they do from domestic sources."
"Putting police or soldiers into newsrooms who are not equipped to make informed judgments about the content of the news serves no useful purpose, and is an obvious big-brother bullying tactic aimed at monitoring not just what goes into the newspapers, but the contacts and working-culture of journalists as they go about their daily work," says PFF Co-chair Monica Miller.
"This move given the continuing sanctions and tactics by the current regime, may soon lead to complete shutdowns of the media outlets that refuse to denounce their ethics. This will eventually render affected employees without income for their families, and lead to the kind of disorder and disaffection which the emergency regulations describe. It's very clearly aimed at one sector of society only."
Ms Miller, a former President of the Pacific Islands News Association, says the Pacific region cannot stand by in silence and watch as the people of Fiji are cut off from freely and independently produced news of their own nation.
Radio Fiji late on Saturday, April 11, reported that among the new 'Emergency Regulations' decreed by the President, "... Section 16 of the Regulations stipulates that the State has the authority to cease any broadcast or publication it believes could cause "disorder", give "undue demands" on security forces", "promote disaffection or public alarm" or "undermine the Government and the State of Fiji"'.
"The current and worsening situation is tragic and illustrates the need for us all to protect and cherish the right to free speech and freedom of information," she says.
"A government with some understanding of this basic human right would go about setting up and running its own media outlets to publish and broadcast what it likes and let the audiences have the final say."
The Pacific Freedom Forum, with active members among Pacific journalists, editors, producers, and journalism academics, will soon be launching an online petition for signature by any individual or group worldwide willing to express continuing strong solidarity with our colleagues in Fiji. The petition will be printed and presented to relevant Pacific leaders by national media reps on World Media Freedom Day, May 3.
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.
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