'No news' in Fiji as media protests

Journalists leave newspaper pages blank after government posts censors in newsrooms.

    Bainimarama has tightened control of Fiji's media, posting censors in the newsrooms [Reuters]

    Fiji's latest political upheaval began on Friday when Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the president, nullified the constitution and sacked all the judges before declaring a state of emergency.

    The move was in response to a ruling by an appeal court that the military government of Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in 2006, was unlawful.

    Kevin Rudd, Australia's prime minister, has called Bainimarama's reappointed government "virtually a military dictatorship".

    'Information officers'

    Under the emergency rules, military-backed "information officers" have been stationed at newspaper, news radio and television offices.

    Bainimarama has said they are there to prevent the publication or broadcast of any reports that "could cause disorder".

    Officials have asked some international journalists to leave Fiji.

    "I'm here to report and my visa is still valid, and now I'm awaiting further information"

    Sean Dorney, ABC reporter

    Sean Dorney, a correspondent with the Australian Broadcasting Corp, said he was initially told that he would be deported because the government was "unhappy with my reporting" being aired on the local Fiji One network.

    He said later that immigration officials asked if he would leave voluntarily.

    "I said no. I'm here to report and my visa is still valid, and now I'm awaiting further information," Dorney said.

    Sia Aston, New Zealand's TV3 reporter, and Matt Smith, a cameraman, who were in Fiji to report on the political situation, were also ordered out.

    Officials reportedly seized Aston's video tapes and her personal cell phone.

    'No news'

    The Fiji Times, the country's main daily, published its Sunday and Monday editions with several blank spaces where stories about the crisis would have appeared.

    "The stories on this page could not be published because of Government restrictions," read the only words that appeared on page two of the paper on Sunday.

    Fiji's main television station, Fiji One, refused to broadcast its nightly news bulletin on Sunday, instead showing a simple message written across a black screen: "Viewers please be advised that there will be no 6pm news tonight".

    The network later informed viewers that it could not present some prepared stories because of the new censorship regulations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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