Fiji Times’ Editor-in-Chief arrested

April 12th, 2009 - 1:47 pm ICT by admin  

FIJI (BNO NEWS) – The Fiji military arrested a top editor for the Fiji Times, the country’s oldest newspaper still operating, BNO News has exclusively learned. It comes some 24 hours after the government imposed an emergency rule which limits freedom of speech and gave police expanded powers. On Saturday, as first reported by BNO News, police officers raided the newsrooms of news organizations to censor reporting.

Netani Rika, who is the Fiji Times’ Editor-in-Chief, was arrested at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday (10 p.m. EDT Saturday), a source at a Fiji publication told BNO News. “The Fiji Times editor in chief has been taken in by the military,” the source said. BNO News has decided to not reveal his identity and affiliation because of the current situation in which his discussion with BNO News may result in serious consequences.

According to the source, Rika was arrested because the Fiji Times on Sunday contained blank spaces with text such as “this story could not be published due to Government restrictions”. Dozens of stories were censored in the Sunday edition.

On Saturday, police officers were dispatched to various newsrooms to censor stories which were to be published. “It’s ridiculous,” the source told BNO News while police officers were still at his newsroom to control the publication of news stories. “We are told to not publish any, and I mean any, articles at all that come from any political party or civil society organization, both local and overseas, reacting to the current situation here,” he said. “This time, the government is riding on this emergency decree to fully gag us, even it is only for 30 days.” According to the journalist, police officers at his publication are reviewing all articles before they are allowed to be published.

“Officers visiting our newsroom are told to contact Neumi Leweni, the military spokesman who happens to be the Permanent Secretary for Information here in Fiji, how independent can that be?,” the journalist said. “It’s a controlled environment right now, controlled.”

In a first response, a spokeswoman for the United States State Department condemned the arrest and censorship in the country. “It sounds like another effort by the interim government to stifle independent voices and to impede the return of democratic governance in Fiji,” she told BNO News.

The emergency regulation decree, which was announced by President Iloilo on Saturday, states among other rules that media organizations must submit any material to the government before it is allowed to be published.

It is not the first time Fiji imposed restrictions on the news media. In 2006, for example, Fiji’s leading daily newspaper and sole television station were forced to suspend their operations after attempts by the military to censor their news. In another incident, in 2007, a New Zealand journalist was deported from Fiji after he criticized the military regime on his personal website.

On Friday, foreign media was banned from witnessing an address from the president with no reason given. In the news conference, President Iloilo announced he abrogated the 1997 Constitution and that he appointed himself the Head of State. He also revoked all appointments to the judiciary.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World News |