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Emergency laws reactivated, potentially curbing freedom of expression, media

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

Fiji interim government steps away from democracy

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its concern at reports that Fiji's interim government has reactivated emergency laws which potentially curb Fijians' rights to freedom of expression and free media, among other human rights infringements.

According to reports, Fiji's military rulers were already actively intimidating the media, arbitrarily detaining citizens, searching premises without warrants, and restricting Fijians' rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and privacy.

Then, on September 7, interim ruler military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama re-imposed the Public Emergency Decree, giving the military increased powers and less accountability.

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said this recent development undermines the government's promise to re-establish the rule of law and democratic society, following the military coup d'etat in December 2006.

"Despite Mr. Bainimarama's promise of establishing democracy in Fiji and recognising the rights of citizens, progress in achieving these goals is yet to be realised," Park said.

"By reimposing these emergency laws, the government is going backwards in their commitments of developing a Fijian democracy."

Recent announcements from Fiji's military council have made it clear that neither the deposed Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, nor the main opposition party, Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), is permitted to run as a candidate in the next national election.

Also disturbing is the interim government's attempts to silence human rights advocates, signifying their objection to free discussion and undermining their once stated concerns of protecting human rights and democratic values.

The IFJ supports the initiative of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in urging Fiji's interim government to take all possible steps to develop democracy and return Fiji to the rule of law.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

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