FIJI MILITARY CLAMPS DOWN ON LOCAL MEDIA

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 5)—The Fiji Times Limited has suspended publication after the Fiji military ordered the paper not to publish any "propaganda" against the new political leadership.

Military representatives came to the Victoria Parade officers at 7.30pm, and asked for "assistance".

When questioned, the army told Managing Director Tony Yianni and Editor Samisoni Kakaivalu they could not publish anything from the "deposed" Qarase Government.

Yianni and Kakaivalu argued that a free press meant any and all opinions should be published in a balanced way. The Army said it would not tolerate the newspaper publishing any views that opposed those of the Army. Officers said the Army would instead close the newspaper.

Mr Yianni then ordered the newspaper closed himself.

Yianni last night said the military's demands breached the Constitution of Fiji, which specifically protects freedom of speech.

He said the demands also breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"We were ordered to breach the Constitution and not publish any dissenting views that may be sent to us by free citizens, as well as the views of legally elected members of the Qarase government.

"If we do not have the freedom to publish with responsibility, then we do not publish.

"We would never and have never published anything that would incite people to do wrongdoing.

"The Bill of Rights is for everybody and not just for the Army."

Fiji Times Editor Mr Kakaivalu said he refused to edit any newspaper in which content had been altered or censored in any way by external forces.

"I, and my staff, refuse to work for any publication under these conditions. This is no longer journalism, but propaganda ... exactly the effect the Army says it is trying to prevent."

Mr Yianni said the company would protect its staff, and not allow them to be intimidated by external forces.

"I think the military needs to remember an age-old truism in a battle between guns and pens, pens always win."

Fiji Times: http://www.fijitimes.com/

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