Media Watchdog Calls Search Warrant On Fiji Times Newspaper 'Heavy-Handed'

Pacific Freedom Forum says police action 'could further erode the right to free expression'

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 4, 2017) – The regional media watchdog, Pacific Freedom Forum, says the search warrant executed at the Fiji Times newspaper last week could further erode the right to free expression in Fiji.

The police were seeking the employment contracts of three staff members charged with sedition, following the publication of an inflammatory letter last year.

The Forum's chair, Monica Miller said the search warrant seems like overkill.

"Couldn't they have asked for a copy of the contracts? I think that this is strong, heavy-handed action by the police," she said.

"I think that this will have a chilling effect. Now, with these kinds of actions, people will think twice before they really express how they feel."

Monica Miller said the Fiji Times case should have been dealt with by a media regulator and not escalated to court.

The newspaper and three of its senior staff were charged with sedition relating to a letter published in the Times's iTaukei newspaper, Nai Lalakai.

The staff, including publisher Hank Arts, editor-in-chief Fred Wesley, and Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula, were earlier charged with inciting communal antagonism, but that was changed last month.

RNZ International understands that officers from the police major crime unit arrived at the newspaper's Suva headquarters on Thursday with a warrant seeking the employment contracts of Mr Arts, Mr Wesley and Mr Ravula.

The pursuit of the charges against the Fiji Times has been condemned by human rights group Amnesty International.

Radio New Zealand International
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