FIJI: Judicial High Noon for Fiji Times leaves media ‘independence’ teetering
Thursday, February 21, 2013
AUCKLAND (Cafe Pacific / Pacific Media Watch): Hard on the heels of a new decree by Fiji’s military-backed regime effectively gagging reporting about political parties no longer officially “registered”, the country’s most influential newspaper Fiji Times has been clobbered judicially.
It has paid a tough price - including a F$300,000 fine and suspended jail sentence for the editor - for “scandalising” the judiciary over reprinting a story from a national New Zealand Sunday newspaper on its sport pages.
“Within Fiji's media industry it is expected that this heavy fine will knock the publication out of business,” writes Fairfax’s Michael Field, a long-time critic of the regime.
The draconian 2010 Fiji Media Industry Development Decree, although not involved in this contempt of court case, was widely believed to be aimed at the Fiji Times group, especially a punitive curb aimed at divesting foreign ownership to a maximum of 10 percent.
This forced Rupert Murdoch’s Sydney-based News Limited group to cut its losses and sell out completely in 2010 to one of the newspaper's long-standing Fiji directors, Mahendra “Mac” Patel and his Motibhai Group.
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