Fiji Falls On the Press Freedom Index

The latest press freedom index rankings released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has Fiji plunging 73 places to 152 after a crackdown on the media by Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama.

No criticism whatsoever is allowed of Commodore Bainimarama or the military regime. Under Section 16 (1) of the Emergency Regulations (titled “Control of Broadcast and Publications”), if the Permanent Secretary for Information (Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni) “has reason to believe that any broadcast or publication may give rise to disorder … or promote disaffection or public alarm, or undermine the Government” then he “may, by order, prohibit such broadcast or publication”.

As a consequence of this policy, Baimarama moved soldiers into newsrooms for weeks to censor stories. Foreign journalists were deported, including Rex Gardner, publisher of The Fiji Times. A Fiji One TV reporter, Edwin Nand was thrown into jail for reportedly transmitting information overseas. Recently, a Mother Jones reporter doing an investigative piece on Fiji Water was kidnapped, questioned and almost raped.

When the Permanent Secretary of Information was asked whether censorship regulations of Fiji media would be relaxed, he replied that if it was up to him, it would be kept in place for another 5 years.

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