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Union members arrested for trying to publicly discuss new decree

(PFF/IFEX) - Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS, August 15, 2011 - The regional media monitoring network, the Pacific Freedom Forum, has renewed its call on Fiji's regime leadership to repeal its Public Emergency Regulations (PER) and the 2010 Media Decree.

"Two years after the public emergency these regulations were supposedly aimed at addressing, the PER and Media Decree have turned out to be nothing more than a military gag on journalists and the right of Fiji's people to express their ideas and opinions freely," says PFF chair Titi Gabi, of Papua New Guinea.

"Now another decree is on its way and we are concerned over the lack of public debate and discussion, especially by the unions who will be most affected by the new Essential Industries Decree," says Gabi.

Fiji trade unionists Daniel Urai and Dinesh Gounder were arrested and detained earlier this month for trying to publicly discuss the new decree, which has roused international concern about workers' rights. They will appear in court on September 2 on charges of meeting without a permit.

"Effectively, using the PER as a pretence, the regime continues to make things we take for granted - meeting and openly sharing ideas and information - a criminal offence. A permit is not going to be granted for any space where potential disagreement with regime policy or action might happen. We denounce this as bullying, aimed at silencing those who should be leading the public discussion and debates by Fiji's people about what's going on in their own country," says Gabi.

"We've long been concerned over the impact of the PER and Media Decree on our colleagues, which robs them of their ability to report freely on what is happening in Fiji," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller, of American Samoa.

"Free speech is tightly linked to freedom of association and freedom of assembly, and we stand in solidarity with workers groups in Fiji who are basically being cornered with no room to discuss how they will be affected by the new decree."

"A leadership which stops its own people from meeting and sharing frank and honest opinions in public, is clearly uncomfortable with a nation where free and fair comment is enjoyed by all."
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