20 April 2009

Alert

Journalist Edwin Nand released; PM says free speech "nothing but trouble"


Incident details

Release

Edwin Nand, Journalist
(PINA/IFEX) - Fiji Television journalist, Edwin Nand, was released after 9 a.m. (local time) on the morning of 15 April 2009, after 36 hours in police detention.

Fiji TV legal manager Tanya Waqaniika confirmed to PACNEWS that Nand was picked up from the Nasova Police barracks on 15 April. "He was in good spirits and is resting now at home. According to Edwin, he was treated very well by police, said Ms Waqaniika.

Police spokesman, Atunaisa Sokoimuri said the TV journalist was released this morning without any charges; "We have released him but are continuing investigations."

Nand was taken in for questioning by police on the evening of 13 April after his interview with deported Australian Network journalist Sean Dorney. Footage from the interview was broadcast widely in Australia and New Zealand.

In a related incident, Fiji's military leader and newly-appointed interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says he is not going to be forced into holding elections and reform is essential before the country can return to democracy.

Commodore Bainimarama cited a survey which he said had shown 64 percent of Fijians wanted a new electoral system, and he was not going to return to the old, race-based formula. "The decision that was taken by the Court of Appeal did not force us to go into the old electoral system, which was not good," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said freedom of speech causes trouble and is to blame for the country's political turmoil .He said Fiji does not need free and open public discussion about current issues. "That was how we ended up with what we came up with in the last couple of days," he told Radio New Zealand. "If we (the Government and the media) had worked together from 2006, we wouldn't have had that happen to us."

Commodore Bainimarama said he had imposed emergency restrictions so the reforms could be implemented. "We want to do these changes, these reforms, the last thing we want is opposition to these reforms throughout," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said the media restrictions will be lifted "hopefully in a month."

He appeared unconcerned about the prospect of Fiji being suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Island Forum. "We want to be part of them, but if they decide to remove us, what can we do?"

Asked whether he would agree to a Radio New Zealand reporter going to Fiji, Bainimarama said he would answer any questions that needed answers. "There is no need; ask me the questions and I'll tell you."

The country has had an extraordinary few days sparked by a court ruling on 9 April that Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's regime, in power since a 2006 coup, was illegal under its 1997 constitution. The following day, the country's president Ratu Josefa Iloilo, sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution and ruled out any election for five years.

Commodore Bainimarama briefly returned to the barracks before being reappointed prime minister in a turn of events slammed by critics as a cruel, carefully orchestrated hoax.

The military government has used events to press its agenda for a "clean-up operation", putting police on the streets and severely restricting and vetting local media coverage.

The few international reporters on the ground, the last bastion of press freedom in the country, were deported on 14 April.

Source

Pacific Islands News Association
Level 2, 46 Gordon Street, Damodar Centre
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Fiji Islands
pina (@) connect.com.fj
Fax:+679 3317055
Fiji
 
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