Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Asia Pacific Report

FIJI: Fiji Times awaits penalty after being found guilty in contempt case

Lawyer Jon Apted (on phone, from left), Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and publisher Hank Arts in court. Image: Ivamere Rokovesa/Fiji Times

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Item: 8155

Mere Naleba

SUVA (The Fiji Times / Pacific Media Watch): FIji Times Limited lawyer Jon Apted yesterday told presiding judge Justice William Callanchini that the newspaper company was ready to make a public apology, which would be printed on the front page of the newspaper.

This was during the mitigation hearing between the state and the Fiji Times Limited after the High Court found the newspaper company, the publisher and editor guilty of contempt of court over an article published on November 7 last year.

The court had also made findings that a subsequent article published on June 30 this year was contemptuous.

In his mitigation submission, Apted told the court the publication of the two articles in 2011 and 2012 was not intended to scandalise or disrespect the court.

He said the articles were published as a result of errors in the newsroom and apologised on behalf of the company, publisher and editor in court.

"There was no intention on the part of the newspaper or anyone to scandalise the court," he said.

Apted asked the court to consider not imposing any further punishment on the publisher and editor beyond the finding of guilt as neither had been aware of the contents of the articles which had been published through the errors of staff members.

In making his submission for the Attorney-General, acting Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma asked the court to impose an appropriate penalty that would serve as a deterrent to members of the public.

"Despite all the apologies, Fiji Times continued to publish reckless articles, scandalous articles against the judiciary," Sharma said.

He had asked that Fiji Times be fined no less than $500,000 to be paid within a given period of time and be ordered to give a bond for good behaviour for a period of two years.

Sharma submitted that the owners and directors of the company be ordered to enter into a $500,000 bond on behalf of Fiji Times Limited to be of good behavior for a period of two years.

He also sought three and six months imprisonment sentences for the publisher and editor respectively with good behaviour bonds.

The sentencing will be delivered on notice next year.

* The November 7 article was republished from a New Zealand Sunday newspaper, citing comments about the Fiji judiciary.

* Call for Fiji Times to be fined $500,000


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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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