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Journalists in Fiji released after 48 hours in detention

(IFJ/IFEX) - May 11, 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is relieved to learn that two journalists detained without charge in Fiji since May 9 were released today.

However, the IFJ once again condemns the draconian censorship being applied by Fiji's military regime, which has posted Department of Information censors in all news outlets.

Dionisia Turagabeci and Shelvin Chand, journalists with Fijilive, were detained after the independent online news service posted a report about the release under a Compulsory Supervision Order of eight soldiers and one police officer jailed for manslaughter.

Sources report that the news item included comments from a civil society leader who voiced concern at the early release of the nine.

Turagabeci and Chand were detained under emergency regulations brought in by 2006 coup leader Frank Bainimarama after the abrogation of the country's constitution on April 10. The 30-day regulations were renewed last week until June 10.

The New Zealand-based Coupfourpointfive news blog reported sources as saying that the Fijilive news item was viewed by a censor before being posted. However, an officer at the Police Command Centre - believed to be a member of a team monitoring online news content - called Fijilive and ordered the report be taken down.

Sources say Fijilive removed the report, but the officer failed to refresh the webpage and believed the order had been ignored.
The two journalists were subsequently detained and held at Suva's Central Police Station. They were reportedly denied visitors and access to a lawyer.

Their detention follows earlier temporary detentions of Fiji Television journalist Edwin Nand and Pacnews journalist Pita Ligaula.

"The military regime's strict censorship is not only preventing journalists from doing their jobs and reporting in the public interest at a critical time for Fiji," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"Censors appear to be caught in a guessing game to determine what Bainimarama means when he calls for 'journalism of hope', and are making ad hoc decisions that make it impossible for journalists and the media to know the limits to which the regime will go to deny information to the people of Fiji."

The IFJ again calls on Fiji's military leaders to recognise the harm that is being done to Fiji, and to act now to restore the rights of journalists to report in the public interest.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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