Fiji deports foreign journalists

Military government expels three reporters as army tightens grip amid emergency rule.

    The military government is accused of obstructing media freedoms during emergency rule [Reuters]

    The deportations point to increased sensitivity on the part of the Fijian government over international coverage of events in the South Pacific island.

    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 Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in 2006, was unlawful.

    Bainimarama was reappointed as Fiji's caretaker prime minister after the president declared emergency rule.

    Call for sanctions

    The governments of Australia and New Zealand have criticised Bainimarama over media censorship and accused him of undermining the well-being of Fiji's citizens.

    "We've got effectively a self-appointed dictator" and a "very unpredictable" regime, Murray McCully, the New Zealand foreign minister told the Associated Press.

    The ongoing political crisis has also prompted the Australian government to call for further international sanctions against Fiji.

    But Stephen Smith, the Australian foreign minister, said earnings from the country's vital tourism sector would not be affected.

    "We don't want to do anything which adversely impacts on the Fiji people themselves," Smith told local radio.

    "We're urging the international community to look at what measures the international community can apply."

    Fiji's tourism- and sugar export-dependent economy has rapidly declined since the 2006 coup.

    Bainimarama has said he will eventually hold elections to restore democracy, after he rewrites the constitution and electoral laws to remove what he says is racial discrimination against a large ethnic Indian minority.

    Events in Fiji have also been condemned by the United Nations and the Commonwealth, which has called for a special meeting to discuss the situation in the South Pacific nation.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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