INTERNATIONAL PRESS GROUP SLAMS FIJI REGIME OVER THREATS

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International Federation of Journalists concerned for media

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 31, 2009) – The International Federation of Journalists has called on the regime to stop attempts to shut down the media in Fiji.

In a statement issued yesterday, the IFJ's Asia Pacific director Jacqueline Park said they were concerned for the safety and integrity of Fiji's media.

Her comments follow a threat by the Military Land Force Commander Colonel Pita Driti on Saturday to close down the Fiji Times.

The IFJ urged the interim Government to instruct all officials and senior military personnel to refrain from making or endorsing statements that demand censorship and serve to incite anti-media sentiment.

"Colonel Pita Driti's public call for a newspaper to be shut down because he apparently does not agree with its content demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of the role of an independent media in an open society," said Ms Park.

"This kind of comment by a high-ranking military officer appears intended to intimidate the media community and is irresponsible given recent physical attacks on media personnel.

"The IFJ urges Fiji's interim military leaders to make a public commitment to the protection of media personnel and freedom of expression in Fiji."

Ms Park said the IFJ reiterated that complaints against the media must be dealt with through open dialogue and independent regulatory mechanisms.

She said shutting down media, deporting publishers and seeking court convictions would only take Fiji further along the path toward a closed society.

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

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