Freedom of the Press
You are here
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Press freedom in Fiji suffered a major setback in 2009. An appellate court ruled on April 9 that the 2006 dismissal of former prime minister Laisenia Qarase and his cabinet, the dissolution of Parliament, and the 2007 appointment of Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister were illegal, precipitating a political crisis. On April 10, President Josefa Iloilo abrogated the 1997 constitution, nullified all judicial appointments, imposed of a state of emergency, and reconfirmed himself as president, announcing that he would rule by decree. Following the suspension of the constitution, the government generally ignored constitutional guarantees protecting freedom of the press; all private media were tightly controlled, and journalists who criticized the government were harassed, threatened, and detained.
- Despite the military-backed regime’s abrogation of the constitution, the authorities claimed that a “free press” still existed, allowing for some editorial discretion amid general censorship.
- The Public Emergency Regulations (PER) imposed in April 2009 remained in force at year’s end, allowing for daily government censorship of print publications as well as radio and television broadcasts. Local reporting that was critical of the interim government was prohibited, and government officials threatened those who disobeyed with criminal proceedings. Newspapers published blank pages and televisions stations cancelled news programming due to the restrictions.
- In January 2009, the Suva High Court ruled against the Fiji Times for publishing a “contemptuous letter” from an Australian correspondent in 2008 that criticized three judges. The paper was fined FJ$100,000 (US$83,000), and its editor in chief, Netani Rika, received a three-month suspended sentence for contempt of court. While the expatriate Australian publisher of the Fiji Times, Rex Gardner, was discharged on a good-behavior bond, he was deported several days later. Gardner was the third Australian publisher to be expelled by the regime in less than a year. The Fiji Times—the oldest and most influential of Fiji’s three daily newspapers—is owned by the Australian company News Limited, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. The Fiji Daily Post was also prosecuted for publishing the same letter.
- Throughout the year, journalists were threatened, detained, harassed, and prosecuted, encouraging high levels of self-censorship. Journalists with Fijilive, a web-based news service, were detained and questioned in April for a story on the devaluation of Fiji’s currency. Also in April, three additional journalists from Australia and New Zealand were deported following the implementation of emergency regulations.
- The state-run Fiji Broadcasting Corporation operates three main radio stations in English, Fijian, and Hindustani; the state also runs three national newspapers. These compete with three private newspapers, the Fiji Times, the Fiji Sun, and the Daily Post, as well as a privately owned FM broadcaster, Communications Fiji Ltd. The Fijian investment group Yasana Holdings owns a controlling 51 percent stake in Fiji TV, while the government owns 14 percent but plans to sell its stake. In April 2009, two Australian Broadcasting Corporation FM radio transmitters were shut down, and the government seized all broadcasting licenses in November and issued temporary licenses pending review. There were reports that at least one of the seized frequencies would be reallocated to the government broadcaster.
- Approximately 13 percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2009. While there was no systematic blocking of websites, and the public was free to access the internet, there were reports that the government under the PER monitored e-mail traffic and critical blogs.