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Fiji academic publishes speech on media freedom after being gagged

The Pacific Freedom Forum is welcoming publication of a speech from a speaker stopped from presenting at the University of the South Pacific on World Press Freedom Day (WPFD).

Dr Wadan Narsey published his speech through new Fiji magazine, Republika.

"We praise the bravery of the magazine publishers operating under a military regime with limited understanding of benefits stemming from open debate," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.

"We also support Dr Narsey in criticising a trend towards blaming journalists for policy and practice that comes from editors, publishers or outside of news media."

Speaking from Port Moresby, Gabi said the WPFD gag shows "extraordinary oversensitivity" on the part of university authorities.

"Media freedom in Fiji is one thing, but a regional university such as USP must engage with authorities to ensure that wider impacts are avoided."

PFF co-Chair Monica Miller, based in Pago Pago, said that WPFD 2013 would have been the ideal opportunity for university authorities to raise debate around freedoms of speech ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

"How is it that better preparations were not laid for this most fundamental of freedoms?"

Miller also praised suggestions from Dr Narsey for journalists to start maintaining records on censorship for future evaluation.

His comments are reproduced here:

"What journalists need to do . . . is to keep a record of all the stories they write, the dates they submit to the editors, and the story that appears or does not appear.

"Someday, media censorship will end and our society will return to practicing their human right to freedom of expression.

"As part of our attempt to understand this period in Fiji's sad history, there will also be studies of the nature and frequency of media censorship during this time.

"The records maintained by journalists and principled editors will be an invaluable part of the history from which our future generations can learn.

"Journalism has as much a part to play in the history of our people as any other academic discipline such as history, politics or economics.

"Journalism may be the most important given its centrality in informing public opinion, which is the cornerstone of any true democracy."

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