29 Jun 2010

Fiji Times owners say interim regime's new media decree is outrageous

10:10 am on 29 June 2010

News Ltd says it is outraged about the interim Fiji Government's decree that gives Rupert Murdoch's Australian arm three months to sell or close its newspaper, the Fiji Times.

The decree forces the paper to be 90 per cent locally owned in three months and follows tough new restrictions imposed on Fiji's media.

The interim regime's leader, Frank Bainimarama, has been tightening controls on the media since he overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup.

News Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan described the decree as an appalling assault on free speech and a terrible blow for the fragile economy of Fiji.

In a statement he says this illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji's reputation as an attractive investment opportunity.

Mr Hartigan says it's an outrageous precedent that will make foreign investors in other industries very nervous about their involvement.

He says the regime's move puts at risk the jobs of close to 200 people working for the paper in Suva, Nadi and Labasa, and threatens more than a thousand others whose livelihood is based on selling the Fiji Times.

Amnesty International says the decree will extend the widespread censorship of newspapers and broadcasters in Fiji, whose international isolation has deepened as the interim regime turns the screw on dissenting voices.