After threatening to apply a system of advance censorship, the military, which took control at the beginning of December did offer some guarantees to the press. But a crackdown on any criticism continued.
On 5 December 2006, public television interrupted its news programmes, just a few hours after Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced he had taken power in a military coup. The TV announced that the Fiji Television “news service would only resume broadcasting when it could be independent and free from censorship.” Likewise, the leading daily Fiji Times suspended publication and two privately-owned radio stations Radio Fiji and Communications Fiji suspended broadcasts, after visits from soldiers wanting to impose advance censorship on them. Guards were posted in the media offices.
A few days later, the coup leaders guaranteed the independence of the country’s main media. Bainimarama said: “We have withdrawn our soldiers from the media. We did not totally censor the press. But we wanted to prevent people from exploiting the situation to incite people to disturb the peace that is currently prevailing.” The Fiji Daily Post, close to the ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, was however threatened and suffered reprisals. The paper’s editor, Robert Wolfgramm, an Australian national, was arrested and had his passport confiscated and the family of a reporter on the paper, Jyoti Pratibha was threatened by soldiers who were apparently searching for the daily’s general manager, Mesake Koroi.
The coup leaders also tried to gag other people, such as businessman and former journalist, Imraz Iqbal, who was questioned after having an article published in the magazine Fiji Living. Soldiers also threatened people who had written letters highly critical of the coup to the letters page.