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Fiji July 9, 2010
Commodore Frank Bainimarama
Interim Prime Minister
Commander of Armed Forces
Victoria Parade, Suva
Republic of Fiji
Fax: (011.679) 330.6034
We at the Overseas Club of America (OPC) deplore your government’s latest attempt to silence independent reporting by requiring that all Fiji media be 90% locally owned.
Coming after strictures in April 2009 that placed censors and police directly in newsrooms and rules that require all stories over 50 words carry a byline — your government’ s goal is all too clear. You seek to intimidate and punish individual journalists with jail terms of up to two years, and to drive out publications with the ability to publish independent stories about your leadership. In this case, the target of your ownership rule can only be the foreign-owned Fiji Times, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s media holdings.
When we of the OPC wrote you a year ago, we pointed that you pledged on taking control in 2006 that military rule would be an interim step to restoring civilian government. Instead, as you have tightened your grip on power, Fiji’s courts and the press have correctly argued that your government’s policies are unconstitutional. You in turn have treated these comments as subversive…stating that stories critical of your government could incite violence.
But to the outside world, your Excellency, you have created an image for Fiji as a military dictatorship. As Australian foreign minister, Stephen Smith, noted recently, two pillars of Fiji’s economy — tourism, your largest industry, and the foreign investment that supports the tourist trade are now in jeopardy. While you may censor your national press as you have been doing, criticism of your actions by the international media can only expand as your crackdown on free expression continues.
In effect, you have turned Fiji into an island of censorship. We urge you to reverse course before your actions do more harm to your citizens and to universal rights of free expression.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Winston Thompson
Ambassador of Fiji to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Fiji
2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Ambassador Ratu Seremaia Tui Cavuilati
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Fiji to the United Nations
630 Third Avenue, 7th Floor
New York NY 10017
Fax: (212) 687.3963
H.E. Steven McGann
U.S. Ambassador to Fiji
Embassy of the United States of America
1 Loftus Street
Fax: (011.679) 330.5106
News Editor Fiji TV
Fiji Media Council