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FIJI: Judge fines Times $300,000 over 'scandalising' judiciary

Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley ... suspended jail sentence for contempt of court. Image: Freeze frame from the USP documentary Media Freedom in the Pacific/Cafe Pacific

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Item: 8204

Nanise Loanakadavu

SUVA (The Fiji Times / Pacific Media Watch): The Fiji Times Limited has been ordered to pay a fine of F$300,000 and court costs of $2000 within 28 days after being convicted for contempt of court in the High Court in Suva.

In his judgment handed down yesterday, Justice William Calanchini also convicted the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, of contempt and sentenced him to six months' imprisonment suspended for a period of two years.

He convicted former publisher Brian  O'Flaherty and ordered him to pay a fine of $10,000. Both Wesley and O'Flaherty were also ordered to pay costs of $2000 each to the Attorney-General within 28 days.

Justice Calanchini further ordered The Fiji Times and Wesley to arrange for an apology  directed to the  judiciary of Fiji to be first drafted and submitted to the court for approval prior  to being published in The Fiji Times within the next 28 days.

The convictions were entered for the republication in the sports pages of The Fiji Times on 7 November 2011 of an article originally published in the Sunday Star-Times, a New Zealand newspaper.

The article contained a statement from Tai Nicholas, the general secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation, about the judiciary in Fiji.

Justice Calanchini had earlier found that this article scandalised the Fiji courts.

Justice Calanchini said an "aggravating factor" of the contempt was the publication by The Fiji Times of a story in June last year which conveyed "the impression that the judiciary was not independent from the government".

The Fiji Times Limited, Wesley and O'Flaherty, who were not at work on the day the article was included in the newspaper for publication, had all pleaded not guilty.

A fortnight ago, Justice Calanchini convicted Nicholas, who had pleaded guilty, and fined him $15,000 for making the original statement about the Fiji judiciary.

David Robie's Cafe Pacific comment on the case

Pacific Scoop report on the case

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

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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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