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SUVA, Fiji (August 27, 1998 - APN/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---A prominent Fiji human rights commentator has condemned an attack on the University of the South Pacific's two New Zealand journalism educators, claiming that some news media people were trying to suppress their freedom of expression.

In an open letter to the Fiji Times, Jone Dakuvula, a former press secretary to Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, tonight cited Fiji's new constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The Times today ran an article reporting that the Fiji Government was investigating complaints that journalism coordinator David Robie and television lecturer Ingrid Leary had "breached" their work permit conditions.

The newspaper reported permanent secretary Emitai Boladuadua of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration as saying "the concerns focused mainly on articles appearing on Mr. Robie's Asia-Pacific Network [Café Pacific] website."

Robie introduced an Internet journalism course this year at USP and launched an online edition of the regional student newspaper Wansolwara.

The complaint against Leary was over her weekly Media Watch column in the Fiji Daily Post and tutorials conducted at the Fiji Journalism Institute.

Boladuadua said some "members of the public" and some Government departments had complained.

"We will certainly have to look at the terms of their work permit very closely now that a number of people have complained about a possible breach of work permits," he said.

But Dakuvula, a prominent Fiji media columnist and a former investigator with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, said the report of the complaints appeared to involve some local news media people who disagreed with either the views of David Robie and Ingrid Leary or the fact that they had been lawfully employed by the regional university, USP.

"Our new constitution has been in force for barely one month and here we have some news media people attempting to suppress two well qualified journalists' freedom of expression, perhaps in the hope that they could be expelled from this country for the 'crime' of writing, publishing and teaching journalism," he said.

"Where is the Fiji journalists' much vaunted code of ethics?"

Dakuvula cited the new Fiji Constitution and the Bill of Rights, including Section 30 on "Freedom of expression," which states: "Every person has the right to freedom of expression, including: freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas; and freedom of the press and other media."

The regional newspaper published by the journalism students at USP, Wansolwara, has also condemned the attack on the academics in an editorial in the newspaper's latest edition.

Headlined "Hypocrisy over a free press", the editorial claimed that Robie and Leary had been unfairly singled out.

"The media is always fighting for press freedom. But it is very hypocritical that some in the media turn around and do the exact thing they don't want to be a victim of," the editorial said.

"It should be clear that these 'complaints' are very unconstitutional. Professionals and academics train others, research and publish their work everywhere and USP is a good example of this."

Title -- 1670 MEDIA: Human rights writer condemns attack Date -- 27 August 1998 Byline -- None Origin -- Pacific MediaWatch Source -- Asia-Pacific Network, 27/8/98 Copyright -- APN Status -- Abridged

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