WORLD JOURNALISTS GROUP DECRIES FIJI RIGHTS ABUSES

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 26) - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed its concern at reports that Fiji’s interim government has reactivated emergency laws which potentially curb Fijians’ rights to freedom of expression and free media, among other human rights infringements.

[PIR editor’s note: The Brussels, Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists says it is the world's largest organization of journalists with about 500,000 members in more than 100 countries.]

According to reports, Fiji’s military rulers were already actively intimidating the media, arbitrarily detaining citizens, searching premises without warrants, and restricting Fijians rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and privacy.

Then, on September 7, interim ruler military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama reimposed the Public Emergency Decree, giving the military increased powers and less accountability.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Radio New Zealand International, Fiji’s military council has decided that the Public Emergency Regulations imposed earlier this month will be lifted on October 6.]

IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said this recent development undermines the governments promise to re-establish the rule of law and democratic society, following the military coup detát in December 2006, reports Pacnews.

"Despite Bainimarama’s promise of establishing democracy in Fiji and recognizing the rights of citizens, progress in achieving these goals is yet to be realized," Ms. Park said.

"By reimposing these emergency laws, the government is going backwards in their commitments of developing a Fijian democracy."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

Recent announcements from Fiji’s military council have made it clear that neither the deposed Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase nor his Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), are permitted to run as candidates in the next national election.

Also disturbing is the interim government’s attempts to silence human rights advocates, signifying their objection to free discussion and undermining their once stated concerns of protecting human rights and democratic values.

The IFJ supports the initiative of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in urging Fiji’s interim government to take all possible steps to develop democracy and return Fiji to the rule of law.

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