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Regime's bullying of media continues with contempt case

(PFF/IFEX) - Fiji's regime continues to cement its own repressive image with the latest contempt case filed against the "Fiji Times", says the regional media freedom monitoring network the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF).

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has taken offense at an article originally published in New Zealand's "Sunday Star-Times" newspaper and republished in the "Fiji Times" on November 7, 2011. The article dealt with an interview about Oceania Football staffer Dr. Sahu Khan, who is appealing a regime decision barring him from practicing law for a decade over professional misconduct charges. Oceania Football General Secretary Tai Nicholas made comments about the Fijian judiciary that angered the military regime and offended the Attorney General.

"Once more we have the 'Fiji Times' bearing the brunt of a regime tantrum against freedom of expression when it disagrees with their 'journalism of hope' branding," says Papua New Guinea's Titi Gabi, chair of the PFF.

"Nicholas brings a long legal career to his role in Oceania Football. He was expressing his opinion on the state of the judicial system in Fiji and the story seems to have passed the checks of regime censors as per the PER (Public Emergency Regulations), which put the onus on newsroom censors to ensure reportage is screened for 'offensive' content'," says Gabi.

PFF repeats its call on the regime to repeal the PER and Media Decree to demonstrate meaningful efforts to restore democracy in Fiji.

"We believe direct and mediated complaints processes for complaints over breaches of media ethics and standards are the best way forward," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa. "The ability to take criticism and respond to it maturely is what pacific communities demand of their leaders. Applied well, this skill would have a tremendous and valuable influence on public perceptions around leadership, more powerful that the current practice of targeting media operators such as the 'Fiji Times'."

The contempt case will be heard on November 28.

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