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Fiji - Annual report 2008

Area: 18,270 sq. km.
Population: 825,000.
Languages: Fijian, English, Hindi.
Head of state: Ratu Josefa Iloilo Uluivuda, president.

The military, which has been in power since a 5 December 2006 coup, gave some guarantees to privately-owned media. After a few tense months, Fijian journalists regained their independence, but the authorities continued to harass its critics, particularly on the Internet.

An army spokesman said in May 2007 that the military would stop hounding blogs “critical towards the institution and members of government”. After blocking access to several of them, Col. Pita Driti relented and said that the military authorities “were no longer concerned about comments posted on these blogs”. He explained his change of heart with the remark that the military had developed a “thick skin” and “no longer feels offended by criticism”.

Several blogs had been made inaccessible over a period of a few days, among them and, but many of them changed address to get round this censorship. Col. Pita Driti made it clear: “The state of emergency is still in place and people should realise that some freedoms have to be restricted, including freedom of expression. When we have found these bloggers, we will take them to our military quarters and explain to them how their comments constitute a threat to the country”. In 2007, the government appointed by the military said it wanted to allow media some independence, while keeping the power to “thwart those who try to take advantage of the situation to incite people to disturb the peace which now reigns.” Many opposition figures were detained, threatened, and sometimes beaten following the coup.

In June, the Fijian authorities arrested and then expelled New Zealand journalist Michael Field, working for the Fairfax press group, after he flew in to Suva airport. He had planned to cover the diplomatic crisis between Fiji and New Zealand, whose ambassador had just been declared persona non grata. “This is not the first time I have been turned back, but this time it comes amid growing harassment of Fijian journalists”, said the former correspondent for AFP in the Pacific. The incident revealed the existence of a black list of foreign journalists banned from entering Fiji.

Translations available

Introduction Asia-Pacific - Annual report 2008
North Korea
South Korea
Sri Lanka

by continent
Preface : Between impotence, cowardice and duplicity
Introduction : Press freedom faces dangerous elections and an olympic summer in 2008
2008 Africa annual report
2008 Americas annual report
2008 Asia annual report
2008 Europe annual report
2008 Middle East annual report

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World Report 2009
2008 Annual report
2007 Annual report
2006 Annual report
2005 Annual report
2004 Annual Report
2003 Annual Report
2002 Annual Report