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For immediate release: 1st April 2009
THREATS to close down Fiji Times indicate a serious escalation in attempts by the interim regime to control all aspects of life in the republic, warn members of the Pacific Freedom Forum.
They also called on Fiji media to do a “stock take” of their ethical performance, including how frequently newsrooms refer to codes of ethics.
PFF’s immediate concern, however, was the threat to close down an entire newspaper.
“Threatening and deporting publishers and foreign journalists is one thing,” says forum chair Susuve Laumaea. “Closing down one of the main sources of information for people in Fiji is quite another.”
Laumaea says carrying out the threat would represent a “serious escalation of assault on human rights, and a precursor to much wider abuses.”
Unprofessional police and army personnel might be emboldened by closure of the country’s leading daily newspaper, to the point where likelihood of serious injury or more deaths increase, he says.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller says closing a newspaper shuts off a much needed safety valve for any society.
“With fewer newspapers journalists, Fiji people will not be able to stay as accurately informed and in touch with what is happening in their own country.
“There is a risk that ill-informed citizens might become inflamed by rumours and gossip, adding to potential for increased violence.”
She said that if the regime was concerned about destabilisation of their rule then facts from a newspaper had much less impact than word-of-mouth, often wildly inaccurate.
Both are calling on the regime and the media in Fiji to closely study the review report from the Fiji Media Council.
Says Laumaea: “Fiji media need to give themselves time out from their busy schedule to review the report, at all levels, from newsrooms to management.”
One of the world’s longest running newspapers, now 139 years old, the Fiji Times has been a leading critic since the first coup in 1987.
Miller says an ethical stock-take would be a small price to pay to avoid closure of a daily that would mean the loss of an institution from Fiji and the region as a whole.
PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea /Sunday Chronicle Newspaper/ Papua New Guinea
Mobile: 675-684 5168 Office: 675-321-7040
PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller/ KHJ Radio/ American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197 Office 684 633-7793
The Pacific Freedom Forum is 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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