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Interim government seeking jail terms for newspaper bosses

(PINA/IFEX) - Fiji's interim government has asked the court to jail the publishers and editors of two of the country's daily newspapers for six months each and impose a fine of $1 million (approx. US$539,000) over their publication of a letter that criticised the High Court's validation of the 2006 military coup, reports Fiji Live.

The "Fiji Times" and "Daily Post" newspapers have published statements acknowledging their guilt on contempt of court charges after publishing a letter to the editor from a person said to be residing in Queensland, Australia. The papers have also offered to pay costs but the state is not wavering.

The interim Attorney-General was not satisfied with the apologies and maintains that hefty penalties should be handed down to the two companies and jail terms imposed "across the board".

On 4 December 2008, Suva High Court Justice Thomas Hickie decided that he would hear the "Daily Post" matter separately because its publisher, Alan Hickling, had to travel and would be in China. The matter will be heard again on 3 April 2009 when the court will hear mitigation from the "Daily Post".

"Daily Post" lawyer Tevita Fa confirms that the newspaper has been given until 12 December to file its submission. The Solicitor-General has until the end of January to give its response to the "Daily Post" submission.

Meanwhile, "Fiji Times" lawyer Richard Naidu began his defense for the company on 4 December. He is requesting a more lenient fine and sentence for its editor-in-chief, Netani Rika, and publisher Rex Gardner.

Updates the "Fiji Times" case:

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