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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 8, 2000 – Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Times)---A trade unionist board member of an aviation support services company has admitted an email campaign aimed at boycotting Fiji's major daily newspaper, according to the Fiji Times.

The newspaper reported on February 7, 2000 that Air Terminal Services board member Rohitesh Prasad had confirmed sending email messages to fellow workers soliciting funds to print leaflets asking the public not to read the Fiji Times because of "biased reporting" against the Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government.

Prasad is also an engineering supervisor at ATS and the general secretary of the Federated Airline Staff Association.

The newspaper said Prasad had sent out two messages to workers at ATS on February 3 and February 5.

The message reportedly said a committee had been formed in Nadi "to arrest this practice [reading the Fiji Times] especially when everyday reports in some way or another tries [sic] to malign our Prime Minister [Mahendra Chaudhry]."

It also asked people to donate money towards the cost of printing the boycott material, the Fiji Times said.

The first email message said in part: "A very strong concern has been raised by the people of Fiji with regards the biased and inaccurate reporting by the Fiji Times."

The second repeated the statements of the first message and added: "The intent is to ensure that accurate, fair and unbiased reporting is carried out for the benefit of all."

The Fiji Times quoted Prasad as saying: "The reporting was really upsetting and by getting people to stop buying the Fiji Times would make the newspaper know how the public felt. I am a concerned citizen and I found the stories as being too biased."

Although the Fiji Times reported the email messages and comment from Prasad at length, it did not report any comment or reaction from the newspaper itself.

Since the Labour-led coalition government won office in the May 1999 general election, the Fiji Times, owned by a local subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News, Ltd. group, has been frequently singled out for attacks over alleged bias.

The newspaper insists that it has covered government policies independently and fairly, just as it has reported previous administrations, and has alleged that the Chaudhry government is conducting a "vendetta" against the Fiji Times.

Title -- 2541 FIJI: Email campaign against Fiji Times Date -- 8 February 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch

Source -- PMW/FT, 7/2/00 Copyright -- PMW/FT

Status -- Unabridged

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**Updates IFEX alerts of 31 January, 26 January, 12 January, 7 January 2000 and others at *

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 7, 2000 - PINA/IFEX)---On February 7, 2000, Fiji Islands news media reported attempts to get readers to boycott Fiji's biggest newspaper, "The Fiji Times," claiming it is anti-Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. "The Fiji Times" reported details of e-mails seeking funds to print leaflets asking the public not to read the 130-year-old daily newspaper. Later in the day "Radio Fiji" reported such leaflets are being distributed.

"The Fiji Times" said e-mail messages sent to workers at the country's main international airport asking for funds for the campaign said the newspaper "everyday . . . in some way or another tries to malign our prime minister." It identified the sender of the e-mails as a trade unionist working at the airport. Chaudhry, whose Fiji Labour Party leads a coalition government, was for many years a prominent trade unionist.

BACKGROUND There have been continuing tensions between the government and the country's independent news media, especially "The Fiji Times," since Chaudhry came to power in general elections in May 1999. Chaudhry has claimed news media elements are trying to "destabilize" his government. He has begun defamation actions against journalists and threatened a government-imposed media tribunal. The government has refused to renew the work permit of the expatriate editor-in-chief of "The Fiji Times." It has also ordered all government advertising be placed in "Fiji’s Daily Post," in which it is the main shareholder (see IFEX alerts).

"The Fiji Times," which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, has rejected allegations of conspiracies against the government. It said it is covering the present government the same way it covered the previous government. "The Fiji Times" is a previous winner of the PINA Pacific Freedom of Information award for its defense of freedom of expression and the public's right to know. PINA president William Parkinson called Chaudhry's threats of media legislation a "disgrace" and "unbecoming of a prime minister of a supposedly democratic country."

The Fiji Islands has among the most diverse and free news media in the Pacific Islands. They include: three seven-day-a-week English-language daily newspapers; weekly newspapers in Hindi, Fijian, and English; news, business, trade and entertainment magazines; independent commercial, community and religious radio stations; government-owned public and commercial radio stations; and commercial and community television.

For further information, contact Nina Ratulele, Coordinator, PINA Pacific Freedom of Information Network, Pacific Islands News Association, Mailing Address; Pacific Islands News Association, Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji Islands. Street Address; Level 2, Damodar Centre, 46 Gordon Street, Suva, Fiji Islands, tel: +679 303623, fax: +679 303943, e-mail: [email protected], Internet site: 

For further information, contact: Nina Ratulele, Coordinator PINA Pacific Freedom of Information Network Pacific Islands News Association Mailing Address: Pacific Islands News Association Private Mail Bag, Suva Fiji Islands Street Address: Level 2, Damodar Centre 46 Gordon Street Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: +679 303623 Fax: +679 303943 E-mail: [email protected]  Internet site: 

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of PINA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit PINA.

DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 489 College Street Toronto (ON) M6G 1A5 CANADA Tel: +1 416 515 9622 Fax: +1 416 515 7879 Alerts e-mail: [email protected]rg  General e-mail: [email protected]  Internet site: 

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