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*See PMW items 2617 and 2616 at

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 20, 2000 – Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The Fiji Islands government, which owns majority shares in the Daily Post, owes the newspaper F$ 40,000 (US$ 19,704) in unpaid advertisements, according to its general manager Thakur Ranjit Singh, the Fiji Times reports.

He said this was the amount outstanding at the end of January. But the amount could have increased to over F$ 50,000 (US$ 24,631) because more advertisements were placed in February and March.

But Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi denied this yesterday.

The government and Singh are at loggerheads after he refused to run a government advertisement without an official local purchase order last week.

Vayeshnoi said the government was concerned with the operations of the newspaper. He said he had written four letters to the newspaper board and management on the issue.

However, the Assistant Information Minister said the government would not discuss these issues publicly.

"I have written to the Daily Post complaining about certain aspects of the newspaper," he said.

"These are operational matters which I will be discussing with the board and management."

Vayeshnoi would not say whether the government wanted Singh removed.

Singh is in hot water over a radio program he hosted with Radio Fiji.

On instructions from the government, the FBCL board removed Singh from the program, Tanik Hamari Bhi Suno.

Singh said yesterday he was aware that the government had written to the board about his performance [at the Daily Post].

"How can they judge my performance? What can I prove in seven weeks?"

Singh said his appointment and performance were the prerogative of the board and shareholders should not get involved.

He said the government had two representatives on the board which appointed him. The Fiji government owns 44 a percent share in the Daily Post and is the largest single shareholder.

The board is chaired by Tom Vuetilovoni, the former chief executive of Colonial [an insurance and banking group].

Title -- 2617 FIJI: Government claimed to owe Daily Post $40,000 Date -- 20 March 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Fiji Times, 20/3/00 Copyright -- FT Status -- Unabridged

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