We, the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), strongly condemn the action of the interim Fiji Government on its self-righteous path in continuing to target the Fiji media by deporting Fiji Times Limited publisher, Rex Gardner.
Gardner is the third newspaper publisher and Australian to be deported by the interim Fiji Government in less than a year.
The move is the latest crackdown on the media in Fiji since military commander Frank Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, and comes amid growing international criticism of the slow progress in returning the country to democratic rule.
The Fiji Times publisher was handed his papers by Fiji Immigration officials yesterday afternoon, declaring him an illegal immigrant.
Nine months ago, his predecessor Evan Hannah was deported under the same immigration laws.
Another Australian, publisher of the Fiji Sun newspaper, Russell Hunter was forced to leave the country under similar circumstances in February last year.
PINA president Joseph Ealedona said, “Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama continues to ignore his promise of upholding media freedom. The blatant attack on the Fourth Estate chips away at the tenets of the freedom of the media in Fiji and will hinder every effort to return the country to normalcy. Such action sends a shiver through the media fraternity and the safety and security of media personnel is of utmost importance to PINA. The deportation sends a very dangerous signal throughout the country and to the international community. This latest threat to a free and independent media in Fiji is unacceptable and is a weak excuse to intimidate the Fiji Times and other media organisations in the country.”
The media must be seen as an important tool to nation building. We urge all media organisations in Fiji to unite in the protection of their rights to carry out their role without fear or fervor.