13 Apr 2009

Fiji military irked by response to censorship

11:02 am on 13 April 2009

Fiji's interim government is unhappy with the media's response to censorship imposed by the regime after Friday's presidential decision to abrogate the constitution.

Fiji Times staff were summoned by the regime to explain the paper's decision to leave columns blank.

The Fiji Times printed "This story could not be published due to Government restrictions" across blank columns that would have otherwise had articles on pages two and three of the Sunday Times.

Information secretary Major Neumi Leweni asked Fiji Times staff to explain the empty spaces and the phrase referring to state restrictions.

The national television station, Fiji Television Ltd, did not broadcast its regular 6pm news bulletin on Sunday.

Radio New Zealand International says a state official assessing the broadcast reportedly ordered three news items to be dropped. Acting station chief executive officer Ken Clark reportedly told him that having canned the heart of the bulletin there really was nothing else worth airing.

One of the stories speculated on the possible reinstatement of Anthony Gates as Chief Justice and the fact that the Fiji Law Society has written to the Office of the President seeking an audience with Ratu Josefa Iloilo to discuss the possible revocation of the order that sacked magistrates and judges.

Monday's edition contains almost no reference to the political situation.

Meanwhile, Fijivillage reports that the Ministry of Information has sent letters to all news directors advising them that all news stories published from now on should not carry any negativity.

Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says he wants the news to be pro-Fiji.

The military has ruled Fiji since December 2006 when the elected government was overturned. It was the fourth coup since 1987.

Comment

Auckland University Pacific Media Centre director David Robie says the restrictions on reporting are probably the worst that journalists in Fiji have faced.

Dr Robie says it is clear the gloves are off in Fiji, as the government moves to control what is said publicly.