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Fiji's extended censorship alarms IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - June 10, 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the Fiji military regime's extension of strict media censorship and emergency regulations, saying the regime's effort to stamp out public discussion is undermining all fundamental rights of the people of Fiji.

Under the emergency rules, initially imposed in April, the media is forbidden to publish or broadcast anything negative about the regime. Censors are now posted in all media outlets.

"The attempts by Fiji's military leaders to eliminate any opportunity for free expression are denying journalists their right to report in the public interest and the right of the people of Fiji to know what is going on in their society," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

Regime spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni said yesterday that the Defence Ministry would prolong the regulations today by 30 days, according to a report on Coup Four and a Half, a blog dedicated to providing information from Fiji.

"The absence of politics from the national agenda . . . is contributing positively to the peace and stability of the nation," he said in a statement.

On April 10, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo abrogated Fiji's Constitution and reappointed Frank Bainimarama as prime minister, following an appeals court ruling that a 2006 coup led by Bainimarama was illegal. Bainimarama immediately imposed emergency regulations for 30 days, which were extended in May until June 10.

The IFJ is deeply concerned that the regime intends to maintain its strict censorship for the longer term, after Leweni is reported to have already warned local journalists to be mindful of the emergency regulations if they attend a long-scheduled meeting of the Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcast Development in Suva on July 20-23.

The IFJ appeals to the international community to continue to urge the Bainimarama regime to end all media censorship in Fiji and to reinstitute the rights of people to access information and to speak freely, in accordance with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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