INDEPENDENT NEWS

Military face condemnation over Radio Intimidation

Published: Wed 25 Oct 2000 09:15 AM
* Pacific Media Watch Online: http://www.pmw.c2o.org * Post a comment on PMW's Right of Reply: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/egbook/257949.gbook
MILITARY FACE CONDEMNATION OVER RADIO FIJI 'INTIMIDATION'
* See PMW items 3067, 3066, 3062
SUVA (PMW): Newspapers, media executives and media freedom groups have condemned the detention by Fiji's military forces of three Radio Fiji staff over a news story as intimidation of the country's news media.
The acting chief executive of the state-owned radio station, the news director and a reporter were seized by armed soldiers on the morning of 20 October 2000 and detained for questioning for more than seven hours.
They were released without the military succeeding in forcing them to divulge their sources, but may yet face charges, legal sources told Pacific Media Watch.
The intimidation against the radio station came as Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola attempted to gag Fiji Television over a planned interview with deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry on a popular current affairs programme.
The Fiji Times said in an editorial on October 21 that the military had "overstepped the mark" and cautioned against a "confrontation between the army and the media".
"While the military may well see freedom of expression as a threat, the population is likely to see threats to the media as an even greater one."
However, the rival Fiji Sun was more cautious in its editorial. It said:
"The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation [Radio Fiji] can cite its right to press freedom or freedom of expression. On the other hand, the military, as one of the chief custodians of security and peace in this country, can cite that FBC had not exercised that right responsibly.
"And it could say that for the sake of security and peace in this country the action of airing that item was tantamount to sabotage of the security of the land and could incite trouble."
Daily Post publisher Ranjiit Singh condemned the action by the military, expressing his concern at "this worrying trend of harassment of the Fourth Estate by the military".
"If any law has been broken then the offenders should be charged by police. The military should not detain these people for doing their job, or subjecting them to such detention," Singh said.
He added that it was a basic principle of journalism that the source of information was kept confidential.
Pacific Media Watch co-convenor David Robie said the action by the military was "outrageous intimidation of news media staff and utter contempt for the role of news media enjoyed in any open and democratic society".
"Sadly, this will demonstrate to the world that there is no normality in Fiji," said Robie, who is also journalism coordinator of the University of the South Pacific.
"This intimidation of FBC and the gagging attempt on Fiji Television shows that freedom of speech is very fragile".
The regional industry body Pacific Islands Media Association (PINA) described the intimidation of FBC as "total overreaction".
The association said the military forces should have no role in questioning journalists and trying to get them to reveal their sources for news reports.
The three detained people - general manager public broadcasting Francis Herman, who is also acting chief executive; news director Vasiti Waqa; and reporter Maca Lutunauga - were released after further questioning from Central Police Station.
Although they were not charged, PMW understands they could still face charges under an Internal Security Decree.
The Fiji Times said that the military found a report aired by Radio Fiji on the 7am news bulletin on October 20 "dangerous".
The report quoted an unnamed senior army officer as saying the military did not want Vice-President Ratu Jope Seniloli to act as President and commander-in-chief of the military.
Seniloli was rebel leader George Speight's nominee for president while holding the elected government hostage for 56 days. Speight is now charged with treason.
President Ratu Josefa Iloilo is due to leave the country for a medical check-up in a fortnight, said the newspaper.
"The military said the news item was entirely false and could divide the army and cause concern in the community," the Fiji Times reported.
On a Fijian-language broadcast on Radio Fiji on October 20, former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka said the military should clarify whether it would accept taking orders from Seniloli.
Rabuka, who staged the 1987 coups and is a former prime minister, is now chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs.
He was quoted on the radio as saying that the President "remains the President" when he would be in Australia. This meant he could still exercise his powers as military commander-in-chief while out of the country.
+++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.
(c)1996-2000 Copyright - All rights reserved.
Items are provided solely for review purposes as a non-profit educational service. Copyright remains the property of the original producers as indicated. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright owner for any publishing. Copyright owners not wishing their materials to be posted by PMW please contact us. The views expressed in material listed by PMW are not necessarily the views of PMW or its members.
Recipients should rely on their own inquiries before making decisions based on material listed in PMW. Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.
For further information, inquiries about joining the Pacific Media Watch
listserve, articles for publication, and giving feedback contact Pacific
Media Watch at: E-mail: niusedita@pactok.net.au or: bfmedia@mpx.com.au Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804 Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia or, c/o Journalism, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji New website: http://www.pmw.c2o.org

Next in World

Tongan PM 'Akilisi Pohiva dies, aged 78
By: RNZ
UK PM to Suspend Parliament; Queen's Speech
By: 10 Downing Street
Gordon Campbell on the Hong Kong protest movement
By: Gordon Campbell
The Pacific will no longer stand for Australia's inaction
By: The Conversation
July 29: Earth Overshoot Day 2019 is the Earliest Ever
By: WWF
New Zealand express condolences on passing of Tonga’s PM
By: New Zealand Government
Jeremy Corbyn responds to plans to suspend Parliament
By: UK Labour Party
Australian PM's attitude 'neo-colonial' says Tuvalu
By: RNZ
Condescension and Climate Change
By: Binoy Kampmark
Denying Climate Change and Boosting China’s Threat
By: Binoy Kampmark
NZ boosts support for climate action across the Pacific
By: New Zealand Government
Prime Minister to attend Pacific Islands Forum
By: New Zealand Government
PM Ardern to tackle climate change conversation in Tuvalu
By: RNZ
Ardern must meet Pacific calls
By: Oxfam
Pacific Pawa Shift Builds Momentum to Climate Action Summit
By: 350.org
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILEWe're in BETA! Send Feedback © Scoop Media