FIJI TV LICENSE UNDER THREAT

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 11, 2000 - Fiji's Sunday Post, Sunday Times, Radio Fiji/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji Television Ltd.'s operating license is under threat because a program is being claimed to have caused a civil disturbance in Suva two weeks ago, Fiji's Sunday Post reported today.

Government's telecommunications director Josua Turaganivalu was quoted as saying the license can be revoked because of the Close Up program.

Fiji's interim military government has pledged its support for media freedom. But there have been longstanding differences between Mr. Turaganivalu's ministry and Fiji Television over the conditions of the TV company's license.

On Sunday 28 May a policemen was shot dead and the TV station ransacked following the airing of the Close Up current affairs program.

Local activist Jone Dakuvula - one of the two people featured in the program on media coverage of the Fiji crisis - criticized attempted coup leader George Speight.

Armed men were among a group which soon after left the parliamentary complex held by Mr. Speight and his followers and went on a rampage which included the shooting of the police officer and attack on the TV station.

Fiji TV chief executive Ken Clark was quoted by the Sunday Post as saying the Ministry of Communications has made a wide leap between the television program and the riot. He said on television last night that it was a legitimate and appropriate current affairs program and he is disappointed with the ministry's position that the TV program caused the disturbance.

Fiji's Sunday Post quoted Mr. Turaganivalu as saying the ministry wrote to the station last Friday to explain why they aired a program. He said that they had given the station until Friday this week to reply but was surprised that the Fiji TV chief executive came out publicly about the issue. "We had expected them to write back to us. But he decided to let the public know about their side of the story first instead of us," he said.

Mr. Turaganivalu claimed that the contents of the program had clearly breached a clause which specifically states they are prohibited to air such programs.

Meanwhile, the Fiji crisis continued into its forth week. Suva businessman Mr. Speight and his armed indigenous Fijian supporters continued to hold hostage the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and 31 others. They include most of the members of the Chaudhry government. They are being held in the parliamentary complex, which is under Mr. Speight¹s group's control.

* Radio Fiji reported a restaurant on the seashore near the parliamentary complex in suburban Suva was burned down overnight. It said it was still unsure whether this was done by Mr. Speight’s supporters or by criminal elements who have been taking advantage of the crisis.

* The Sunday Times and Sunday Post both reported chiefs from the province of Cakaudrove will meet on the island of Taveuni to discuss forming a separate Tovata Fijian confederacy government. It followed discussion by chiefs in the economically wealthy west of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, about possibly forming a separate western government or a Fijian confederacy of their own.

* Radio Fiji reported Police Commissioner Isikia Savua as saying he supports the decision by head of the military government, Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama, to not call a meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs at the moment. Commissioner Savua told Radio Fiji the indigenous Fijians are at present being divided by people more concerned about their own monetary and political gains. The Sunday Times quoted council of chiefs’ chairperson Sitiveni Rabuka as saying Commodore Bainimarama does not want the chiefs to meet until there is some sort of normalcy "and I respect his decision."

* The Sunday Post reported Suva City Council is making plans to give the city a facelift after the May 19 looting and arson of Indian-owned shops and restaurants. The destruction came after a march through Suva by indigenous Fijians protesting about what they saw as threats to indigenous rights and land, which was followed by the armed takeover of parliament by Mr. Speight and his men. "We are coming up with a proposal to all plans submitted by proprietors through their architects," said Mataiasi Ragigia, the Lord Mayor of Suva. "What we are trying to tell the business people of Suva is that as far as their refurbishment plans are concerned, we are giving them top priority."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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