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"Fiji Times" fined over article, newspaper publisher and editor receive suspended prison sentences

(PINA/IFEX) - On 22 January 2009, Fiji's oldest newspaper was fined FJD$100,000 (US$54,000) by the High Court over its publication of a letter that criticised the court's validation of the 2006 military coup, reports Fiji Live.

"Fiji Times" publisher Rex Gardener and editor-in-chief Netani Rika have also been handed suspended sentences.

Rika was sentenced to three months' imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Gardener has been discharged on the condition that he enters into a bond without surety and be of good behaviour for a period of 12 months.

The "Fiji Times" has been ordered to pay its fine within 27 days.

The court ordered that "Fiji Times" chairman Ross McDonald enter a bond of FJD$50,000 on behalf of the newspaper. The bond is to be refunded after the FJD$100,000 fine is fully paid.

The case has been adjourned to 8:30 a.m. (local time) on 19 February.

The "Fiji Times" had admitted guilt. The newspaper published admissions of contempt of court in connection with its publication of a letter to the editor from a person said to be residing in Queensland, Australia, and offered to pay costs.

However, the Attorney-General was not satisfied with the apologies and urged the court to impose hefty penalties.

A similar lawsuit against the "Daily Post" newspaper, which also published the letter, will be heard on 3 April.

Updates the "Fiji Times" case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99158

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