Fiji deports another newspaper publisher

January 27th, 2009 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Jan 27 (DPA) Fiji’s military regime deported a third Australian newspaper publisher Tuesday as Pacific island leaders met to decide whether to expel the country from the region’s main political and economic policy organisation.Rex Gardner, publisher of the Fiji Times, owned by News Limited and the island nation’s oldest daily paper, was ordered to leave the country Monday.

The Fiji Times was fined last week for publishing a letter criticising the High Court’s validation of the military coup in December 2006 in which strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama ousted the elected government.

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Netani Rika, was given a suspended three-month prison sentence, while Gardener was discharged on the condition that he broke no laws for 12 months.

But he was declared a prohibited immigrant Monday and ordered deported, as was his predecessor, Evan Hannah, last May.

Three months earlier, another Australian publisher, Russell Hunter, of the daily Fiji Sun, was deported after publishing a series of controversial articles.

Meanwhile, leaders of the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum were meeting in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby to consider their response to Bainimarama’s refusal to hold fresh elections by March as he promised last year.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters before leaving for the meeting Monday that the British Commonwealth was expected to suspend Fiji’s membership next month and the forum needed to demonstrate it could deal with its own regional issues.

“It will weaken the forum if we can’t show leadership,” he said.

Fiji’s capital, Suva, is home to the permanent secretariat of the forum, which has never suspended a member in its 37-year history.

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