21 Jul 2009

Fiji's Bainimarama defends media crackdown at AIBD conference

10:55 am on 21 July 2009

Fiji's interim prime minister has defended his regime's crackdown on the local media at a conference of Asia-Pacific broadcasters in his country.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama told the opening of the conference that the regulations are achieving its desired impact in inspiring positive changes in the local media industry as well as the community.

He said that censorship was needed because the media had hindered national unity and progress.

The Commodore overthrew the elected government in a December 2006 coup -- the fourth in two decades -- and sent military censors into local newsrooms after scrapping the constitution in April this year.

Three foreign journalists have been expelled from Fiji and several local reporters detained as stories considered negative to the regime were banned.

The crackdown prompted calls for the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development or AIBD to cancel its conference in Nadi.

The interim Government's spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, who is in charge of censoring the media, is the vice-president of the AIBD conference, which opened on Monday.