INDEPENDENT NEWS

Fiji Times Chief Editor Given Work Permit

Published: Fri 25 Aug 2000 09:22 AM
Fiji Times Chief Editor Given Work Permit
* Pacific Media Watch Online: http://www.pmw.c2o.org
SUVA (PMW): Fiji's military-backed interim government has granted a work permit to the expatriate editor-in-chief of the newspaper suspected by the deposed elected government as having mounted a campaign against it, according to local news reports.
Russell Hunter, a Scottish-born Australian with extensive Pacific experience, has been granted a work permit for three years with the proviso that a local media person be trained to take over the post when the permit expires.
The Fiji Sun reported on 24 August 2000 following a report two days earlier by Fiji Television that Hunter had been granted a work permit.
Immigration and Home Affairs Minister Ratu Talemo Ratakele confirmed the granting of the work permit, according to the Fiji Sun.
The newspaper quoted the minister as saying: "Also noted was the fact that key posts needed to be taken up by overseas people to protect investments in our country."
Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the first Indo-Fijian national leader of the Pacific country, as Information Minister and his cabinet colleagues frequently clashed with the media during their year in government.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned Fiji Times was several times singled out for bitter criticism and at one stage was accused of "fanning the fires of sedition and racism", a charge the newspaper rejected.
The Chaudhry government was not popular with some sectors of the Fiji news media and ownership as it pursued policies against privatisation and which were perceived to be anti-business. The deposed government gave priority to policies assisting the nation's high-level of poor and under-privileged urban and rural people.
On May 19, the Chaudhry government was overthrown at gunpoint by failed businessman George Speight and his rebels who claiming to be acting for "indigenous rights".
Less than a month earlier, on April 26, the Fiji High Court rejected an attempt by The Fiji Times to quash the Chaudhry government's decision to refuse a work permit extension for Hunter and he left the country shortly after.
During the Fiji political crisis, local editors Netani Rika was acting editor of The Fiji Times and Samisoni Kakaivalu edited the sister paper, The Sunday Times.
The Fiji Times Ltd also owns two weekly vernacular newspapers, in the Fijian and Hindi languages, which are edited by local journalists.
The interim Information Minister and Communications Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, one of the conspirators in the 1987 coups, has faced allegations of being implicated in Speight's attempted coup.
+++niuswire
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.
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