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Wednesday, April 21

New Zealand PEN calls for press freedom in Fiji

The New Zealand PEN Centre is deeply concerned at the deterioration in the relationship between the military government of Fiji and the press.
Since the constitution was abrogated last year, pressure on the media to refrain from all criticism of the government has been intense. With the release of a draft decree on media matters last week, this pressure has grown intolerable and the future for press freedom in Fiji looks bleak. This means that the freedom of the people of Fiji to discuss matters that affect their daily lives is being severely repressed, with all the negative social and psychological consequences that entails.
A three-day consultation on the decree is widely considered to be a sham. Members of the media were given insufficient time to prepare their response to the fifty-page document before being asked to comment on it. Any comments they made were ignored in the process of finalising the decree.
The government argues that the media will have freedom to say anything provided that they do not undermine the nation of Fiji . This is widely understood to mean that the present regime may not be “undermined” or indeed spoken of in any but the most positive terms.
New Zealanders, who are accustomed to full freedom of expression, are appalled by this development in our region. The New Zealand PEN Centre deplores the situation that has arisen in relation to personal freedoms for the people of Fiji and calls on the Fijian government to reconsider its stance.