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Newspaper publisher Rex Gardner deported in latest crackdown on media

(PINA/IFEX) - The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) strongly condemns the actions of the interim Fiji government in its continued targeting of the Fijian media by deporting "Fiji Times" publisher Rex Gardner.

Gardner is the third newspaper publisher and Australian to be deported by the interim Fiji government in less than a year.

The move is the latest crackdown on the media in Fiji since military commander Frank
Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, and comes amid growing international criticism of the slow progress in returning the country to democratic rule.

The "Fiji Times" publisher was handed papers by Fiji Immigration officials on the afternoon of 27 January 2009 declaring him an illegal immigrant.

Nine months earlier, his predecessor, Evan Hannah, was deported under the same immigration laws.

Another Australian, the publisher of the "Fiji Sun" newspaper, Russell Hunter, was forced to leave the country under similar circumstances in February 2008.

PINA president Joseph Ealedona said, "Fiji's Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama continues to ignore his promise of upholding media freedom."

"The blatant attack on the Fourth Estate chips away at the tenets of freedom of the media in Fiji and will hinder every effort to return the country to normalcy," said Ealedona.

"These actions send a shiver through the media fraternity and the safety and security of media personnel is of utmost importance to PINA. The deportation sends a very dangerous signal throughout the country and to the international community. This latest threat to a free and independent media in Fiji is unacceptable and is a weak excuse to intimidate the 'Fiji Times' and other media organisations in the country," Ealedona said.

PINA calls on Commodore Bainimarama to view the media as an important tool for nation building. It urges all media organisations in Fiji to unite in the protection of their rights to carry out their role without fear.

Updates the Gardner and "Fiji Times" case:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100171

For further information on the Hannah case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/93205

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