5 May 2004

Reports details threats to Fiji media

9:14 am on 5 May 2004

As Fiji observed Media Freedom Day yesterday, the international organisation, Reporters Without Borders, published its annual report on threats to the local media made last year.

These include a government plan to set up a Press Council which it would control by appointing its chairman and running its complaints committee.

The report noted that AFP journalist Michael Field was detained at Nausori Airport in March last year when he arrived to cover the trial of two men charged with serious coup related offences.

During a parliamentary debate in May, the health minister accused a Fiji TV reporter of Indian origin of lying, racism and being anti-government in a report about doctor shortages at a health centre, an accusation which the journalist vehemently rejected.

Then government MP Jonetani Kaukeimoce accused Fiji TV news director Netani Rika of a propaganda campaign against the government and the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

Another government MP, Josateki Bua, publicly called for heavier penalties for journalists and legislation to deal specifically with cases of what he called "lying."

The information minister, Simione Kaitani, accused staff of the Fiji Times of being in the grip of "forces of evil" after it ran an editorial questioning the sincerity of South African evangelist Reinhardt Bonke who was then running crusades in the country.

Mr Kaitani said the editorial was totally irresponsible and called on Fiji's Christians to rise up against The Fiji Times.