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Attorney general erases credibilty with claim that media can report freely, says PFF

(PFF/IFEX) -1 November, 2009 - Fiji's attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has erased his own credibility with "delusional" notions that Fiji has a free media, says regional media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF).

According to media reports, Khaiyum told a regional journalism seminar at the University of the South Pacific on Friday, 31 October, that Fiji's media were free to report on any issue, asking, "Is there a restriction? Are journalists being locked up? Are journalists being told what to write? No!"

But in a presentation on the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) introducing regime censorship of all newsrooms in April, Khaiyum admitted the "fundamental issue as far as media control at the moment is concerned is that you do not have politicians being reported (on)."

"The fact that his monologue went unchallenged by his audience only proves that self-censorship is thriving under the PER. Mr. Khaiyum should know his claim (that) Fiji journalists have not been restricted, locked up or told what to write, is clearly delusional and out of touch with reality," says PFF Chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.

The latest global media freedom index compiled by global watchdog Reporters sans frontières has Fiji ranked 152 out of 175 nations. In 2008, Fiji ranked 79th.

"We can only stand in solidarity and sympathy with those who organised the debate, and offer our support to help build understanding amongst the regime leadership that the right to freedom of expression and speech has specific universal indicators which can't be mucked around with," says Laumaea.

"The Pacific Freedom Forum and our networks warmly congratulate the Fiji Times for their award winning free speech campaign as announced on Friday night in Australia," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa. "The irony for us all is that only a few hours before this cause for celebration, the regime's attorney general in Fiji went public saying the media is free to report anything - so long as they don't report on the leadership. In saying that, he proved so powerfully why the Fiji Times deserves the award, and our continued support."

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