Thursday, 26 May 2011

Let Fiji media report freely -- PFF renews call on Fiji regime

Rarotonga, Cook Islands--Regional media monitoring body the Pacific Freedom Forum has renewed its call on the Fiji regime to lift the Public Emergency Regulations which were to have been replaced by the 2010 introduction of the Media Decree.
Both the decree and the continued PER have kept journalists from reporting freely on news which isn't passed by the regime censors, such as the defection this month of Fiji's Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara to Tonga.
Fiji-based journalists were amongst the first to find out about the defection but had to wait more than 24 hours until a regime press conference 'announced' the news.
Meanwhile the story had already broken outside of Fiji.
Editors in Fiji have been told to stop reporting statements from Tevita Mara as a 'matter of national security' and some individuals have been warned that commentary on social networks such as Facebook is being monitored.
"We commend those colleagues whose resourcefulness and investigative approaches around the gag laws have helped to reveal the facts of the matter to Fiji's people," says PFF co-chair Susuve Laumaea of PNG.
"The draconian nature of Fiji's media gag laws have been shown up by the Mara saga. If any Pacific nation has to get the first news on its own activities from outside journalists when the best journalists to do the job are already in-country, that's a sure sign that something needs fixing," he says.
Fiji's media decree has effectively shut down independent and free media in the country, and despite earlier promises has not replaced the Public Emergency Regulations which put censors into newsrooms across the country after a military takeover in April 2006.
"If the regime didn't censor and restrict the media in Fiji, the world wouldn't have to depend on outside media and social networks for their information," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa.
"Pacific media are standing in solidarity to commend the perseverance of Fiji-based colleagues trying to do their jobs under needlessly difficult circumstances. We call on the regime to recognise that the path to sustainable democracy must involve free and fearless reporting of the facts from all sides of a story."--ENDS

Note to Editors:
Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, also known as Roko Ului, was charged with making seditious comments and appeared in the Suva Magistrates Court on May 4. He appeared with co-accused Lt-Col Pita Driti who is charged with making seditious statements and inciting mutiny.
They were released on bail to appear in court again on June 1, with conditions to report to a police station and surrender their passport, which Ratu Tevita Mara had done. A fortnight later, he made his way to Tonga by boat and remains there as a guest of the King -- a family relative. The witch hunt in Fiji for those who aided his flight from his homeland continues and he has been classed as a fugitive from justice by his former Military commander, regime leader Col Frank Bainimarama.

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CONTACT: PFF interim Chair Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email: PFF interim co-Chair Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email: 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.