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Fiji Times editor, Netani Rika, says censorship means major events go unreported

May 8, 2009


Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor | May 08, 2009

Article from:  The Australian

THE editor of the Fiji Times newspaper, Netani Rika, has spoken out for the first time about how major events go unreported because of military censorship imposed in the Pacific nation.

Mr Rika spoke at a UNESCO workshop in Samoa planned originally for Fiji’s capital, Suva.

It was moved to Apia, said Susuve Laumaea, the Papua New Guinean chairman of joint organiser the Pacific Freedom Forum, because it would have been impossible to hold it in Fiji. Mr Rika, whose newspaper is owned by News Ltd, also owner of The Australian, would not have been permitted to make his speech in his home country following last month’s abrogation of the Fiji constitution and the continuing state of emergency under Prime Minister and 2006 coup leader Frank Bainimarama.

“Basically, any story on government must put the interim regime in a positive light or it will not be permitted, even if balance is provided in the form of a comment from a minister or senior public servant,” Mr Rika said.

He said that after April 10, when the constitution was abrogated, judges were sacked and the military government was reappointed until at least September 2014, media organisations were told each would be allotted a censor accompanied by a plainclothes police officer.

“We were not told from whom the censor would need protection,” he said. “The number of censors and of police officers has increased. In Fiji, it is often the case that rules can change from day to day without warning or explanation.”

The Fiji Times Sunday edition published following the imposition of censorship carried white space in place of stories culled by the censors, and was now a collectors’ item, Mr Rika said.

“It was a sensation and drove home to the people of Fiji the point that we were powerless to tell the truth, to tell the country what it needed to know.”

But the newspaper’s management was told by the Government’s information secretary that white space was not permitted, he said.

Instead, he said, “we continue to cover stories which do not portray the interim Government in a good light and inundate the censors with copy”, which “more often than not is declared unfit for consumption and knocked back”.

“It is an extremely frustrating exercise.”

The newspaper provided comprehensive coverage of the closure last week of Air Fiji, the country’s oldest airline, Mr Rika revealed. However, “the censor on duty did not allow our reports to run unless we carried a quote from a specific minister”.

“We refused, and pulled the story. The following day, we placed the same stories in front of a different censor – no worries, the issue was covered.”


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ropate permalink
    May 8, 2009 8:20 AM

    Netani did a brave thing by speaking out openly about the censorship the media is going through in Fiji. He did not criticise the junta but it will be interesting to see whether Netani will be arrested when he returns to Fiji for “threatening the peace and security of Fiji.” In a sense his speech in Samoa will test the Emergency Regulations.

  2. meme permalink
    May 8, 2009 2:14 PM

    Good work SWM…beautiful song!!

  3. Asgrocky permalink
    May 9, 2009 2:57 AM

    I find it depressing.

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