NEW ZEALAND JOURNALIST REFUSED ENTRY TO FIJI

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 13, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Times/Fiji Television/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---A New Zealand television journalist reportedly named on a Fiji Islands immigration "blacklist" was barred from entering the country on March 12, 1999 and he left on the same aircraft, according to reports by Fiji Television and the Fiji Times newspaper.

David Lomas, Deputy Executive Producer of Television New Zealand's news

and current affairs program 60 Minutes and brother of a Fiji news magazine editorial executive, was ordered to return to New Zealand on the aircraft in which he arrived.

His two colleagues, journalist Cameron Bennett and a camera operator, who had arrived in the country to report on a baby switch controversy at Labasa, on the northern island of Vanua Levu, were allowed into Fiji.

Neither Fiji news organization reported any comment from immigration authorities. It is a long weekend in Fiji, coinciding with the Fiji International Sevens rugby union tournament.

FijiTV gave little indication of reasons for the refusal of officials to allow Lomas into the country, other than past reporting connected with Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka who overthrew the democratically elected Government with two military coups in 1987.

However, Lomas was reported by the Fiji Times as having said from his home in New Zealand that his name appeared on the black list after he "disappointed the interim government with a story he wrote in 1991."

The Fiji Times quoted Lomas as saying: "I was working for Television NZ on a Frontline program when we did a story of a possible third coup. We had also taken an inside look at Fiji's army.

"We also spoke to the current Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka after he left the interim government to return to Queen Elizabeth Barracks."

Lomas told the Fiji Times he would seek "clarification" on the incident. He added: "It was embarrassing to be treated in this manner or to have something of this sort happen to you."

The newspaper also reported that TVNZ would raise the issue with Fiji's High Commissioner in New Zealand.

Background:

With a general election due in May, Fiji government officials have sought to project an image of a country with a free press, especially with the guarantees of freedom of speech and of the media under the new 1997 Constitution.

However, recent incidents such as an extraordinary full page state paid advertisement in one of the country's two daily newspapers last week lambasting a respected local news editor and political columnist, Mesake Koroi, for his election run-up opinions; scathing state condemnation of Fiji Television for broadcasting a current affairs program interviewing the resigned army chief; and purchase by the Government in February of a controlling interest in the Daily Post have given media observers an impression of intimidation of the news media.

Title -- 1982 FIJI: NZ journalist refused entry Date -- 13 March 1999 Byline -- None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW/FT/FTV, 12-13/3/99 Status -- Unabridged

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