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Fiji 12 May 2009

Government arrests two journalists in another “warning shot” for press freedom

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrests of two journalists, Shelvin Chand and Dionisia Turaganbeci, under emergency regulations for writing a “negative” article about Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s military government for the FijiLive news website. Chand was arrested on 9 May. Turaganbeci was arrested yesterday.

“The arrests of these two journalists are another warning shot for press freedom in Fiji following the government’s introduction of emergency regulations,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We reiterate our appeal to the European Union and United Nations to condemn this deliberate intention to limit the free flow of information.”

The offending article by Chand and Turaganbeci mentioned public reaction to the release of eight soldiers and police officer who had been given four-year jail sentences in March for assaulting a 19-year-old man, Sakiusa Rabaka, during a demonstration and causing his death.

Public Emergency Laws that were introduced on 10 April and were extended for another month on 30 April restrict the news media to publishing or broadcasting “positive” information, prohibit reports likely to “incite” the population and give the permanent secretary for information wide-ranging powers of enforcement.

The Sunday edition of the Fiji Times appeared on 12 April with many blank spaces. The same day, the national television station refused to broadcast its 6 p.m. news programme in protest against the newly-introduced censorship.

Reporters Without Borders urges the Fijian government to repeal these measures, which violate the international undertakings that Fiji has given.

Read Fiji Times editor Netani Rika’s account of what it is like for journalists trying to working in Fiji at the moment.

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