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Fiji 23 May 2007

Military no longer bothered by critical blogs

After blocking access to several blogs on 17 May, a spokesman for the army yesterday said it would no longer crack down on blogs “critical of the army and members of the government.” Col. Pita Driti said the military authorities “no longer felt concerned by comments published in these blogs.” He said the military had a “thick skin” and was “no longer offended by criticism.”

21.05.07 - Interim government closes websites critical of the army or party leaders

Reporters Without Borders condemned the decision of the military authorities, on 17 May 2007, to block access to blogs "critical of the army and members of the government" on the pretext that they pose a "threat to national security".

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it objected to the misuse of the "national security" argument to step up control of the Internet. "This is an unprecedented step in Fiji. In a country where the press is regularly threatened by the authorities, the new policy of filtering the Net is very worrying", it said.

Army commander, Colonel Pita Driti, announced that access to news websites and blogs containing "lies and representing a threat to national security" would be made impossible from 17 May 2007.

Several blogs were offline from 18 May, including resistfrankscoup and fijishamelist, but many of them changed their addresses to get round the censorship. Col. Pita Driti said there was "still an active state of emergency and people must be aware that some freedoms need to be restrained, including freedom of expression."

"When we catch up with these bloggers, we will take them to our military quarters and explain to them how their remarks constitute a threat to the country", he said.

Army chief Frank Bainimarama took power in Fiji in December 2006. He said he wanted to allow the media a degree of independence, while giving himself the power "to stand in the way of those who would try to take advantage of the situation to incite people to disturb the existing peace". Since the coup, numbers of opponents have been detained threatened and on occasion, beaten.

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