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Regime urged to lift Public Emergency Regulations

(PFF/IFEX) - 2 July 2009 - The reported extension of the so-called 'Public Emergency Regulations' in Fiji merely confirms the PER have nothing to do with a national emergency, says Pacific media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF).

"The new December deadline won't be the last one for this outrageous and sad state of affairs. For as long as the sham continues, the PFF will likewise continue to let the military regime in Fiji know that mapping a political and land tenure for lasting peace is impossible without a free media and the right to assembly," said PFF Chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.

"There's no alleged 'public emergency' in Fiji requiring the imposition of any kind of draconian 'regulations' save only what the Fiji military created during Easter 2009, when it shredded the country's constitution and escalated its assaults on almost all aspects of a genuinely free and democratic society," Laumaea said.

"Incompetent censors backed by police continue to harass and interfere with the work of journalists in all Fiji's newsrooms, and reputable outlets such as Fiji TV and the Fiji Sun have been coerced into publishing the regime's propaganda deliberately disguised as news reports," he stated.

PFF co-Chair Monica Miller of American Samoa says the onus remains on Pacific leaders and organizations, "to call on the Fiji regime to reinstate the constitution and restore the country to democratic rule as soon as practicable, explicitly offer any needed assistance for this to occur, and, most importantly, demand the removal of the so-called 'Public Emergency Regulations'."

"Pacific leaders must also explicitly reaffirm their repeated commitment to freedom of expression and the media, and not succumb to any temptations the Fiji situation offers to consider gagging, harassing, and intimidating their own local media," Miller said.

"We would hope that the plans to hold a special MSG summit on Fiji come to fruition and that the France-Pacific and Pacific Forum Leaders meetings will also be able to effectively address this issue. Within the spirit of the Pacific Plan, Fiji's solution must include a decision to immediately abolish the PER and remove the blanket of fear and restrictions smothering free speech, open debate and honest criticism on the issues involved in creating the conditions for a better Fiji."

The Pacific Freedom Forum has set up an electronic petition, the background to which reads:

"Information is power. Gagging, censorship and detention of the Fiji news media by the interim regime in Fiji robs all citizens of feedback surrounding debate on national futures and leaves the leadership itself uninformed about how to best achieve its goals of ending racist laws and corruption."

There are already almost 200 signatories to this petition. To sign it, click here:

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