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Fiji Time, Daily Post to appear in court over stories

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 28, 2008) – Fiji's interim government has confirmed it is seeking jail sentences for another newspaper editor, and publisher over contempt of court charges.

The interim attorney general has begun contempt proceedings against the Fiji Times editor and publisher over a letter it ran criticising the High Court panel which ruled the 2006 coup was legal.

Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney reports another newspaper, the Fiji Daily Post, will today makes its first appearance in court.

The interim Attorney-General has confirmed he is seeking the same sentence against its editor Robert Wolfgramm and Australian-based publisher Allan Hickling, as he is pursuing against the Fiji Times.

The Daily Post case is set for mention this morning, with the Fiji Times' next appearance scheduled in a week.

Meanwhile, Fijilive reports the military government has defended receiving an outsized slice of the 2009 budgetary pie.

Fiji army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni says the media, in condemning the military’s increased budget, has ignored its sacrifice to move the country forward.

He adds that over expenditure by the military in 2007, after taking over Government on December 2006, "have been appropriately regularized under the Finance Management Act".

Major Leweni was responding to media coverage of the military busting its budget over the last five years to the tune of $118 million, according to information reportedly provided by the Auditor General. The military also received an increased allocation of $15m for 2009, announced by the military commander and interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama last Friday.

"What you have shown is a clear lack of understanding of the important function of the military in national development. In your attempts to mislead the public you have not taken into account the sacrifice and commitment of the military to moving the country forward," Major Leweni wrote in his letter addressing the editor of the Fiji Times newspaper and copied to other media.

"You have shown very little appreciation for the work of the military and instead have undermined the tireless efforts of its personnel, many of whom have and continue to risk their lives in serving the country both locally and abroad."

The Fiji Times, in its editorial comment yesterday, titled ‘No Hypocrites Please’ accused the military of double standards.

"After removal of the Qarase Government and key civil servants seen to be sympathetic to the outgoing administration, public promises were made about exposure of corrupt people and an end to widespread malpractise…

"Yet it is quite clear that despite calling for accountability and transparency in others, the army sees no need to follow the same rules," it said.

Major Leweni was one of the speakers at the 10th Attorney Generals Conference at the Shangri-Las Fijian Resort near Sigatoka today where he assured that the interim Government has no plan to curtail media freedom.

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