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

FIJI: Times editor faces possible prison and fines in contempt case

Editor of the Fiji Times Fred Wesley (right) faces a possible prison term and fines. Image: Fiji Times

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Item: 8154

SUVA (Fiji Village / Pacific Media Watch): Acting Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma has asked the High Court to impose a $500,000 fine on Fiji Times Limited after the newspaper company was found guilty of contempt of court.

Sharma said The Fiji Times committed a similar offence in 2009 where they pleaded guilty and were fined $100,000.

He said this time the company pleaded not guilty but was found guilty by the court. 

Sharma said Fiji Times was a repeat offender and an appropriate penalty needed to be imposed on the company to ensure that it served as a deterrent for would be offenders.    

This is a contempt of court proceeding where Oceania Football Confederation secretary Tai Nicholas made comments about Fiji’s judiciary in the Sunday Star Times in New Zealand which was published last November and a day later was reprinted by the Fiji Times.

Fiji Times lawyer Jon Apted said the penalties should not be excessive and there should not be any imprisonment as this was a mistake by a third party. 

He also said the mistake was not intentional.

Apted apologised on behalf of The Fiji Times in court yesterday and offered to print a front page apology.

He highlighted how the error occurred on 6 November last year. 

Apted said that the editor was well aware of defamation matters and once the matter was brought to his attention, he was remorseful.

Apted highlighted that the sports editor did not read the full article.

He said the deputy sports editor reviewed the story and made a wrong decision as he was not aware of the legal implications.

Apted also said that following the incident, The Fiji Times has instituted further training and constant newsroom meetings. 

He said the rule of the newsroom now is that if you cannot get a story reviewed, leave it out of the paper. 

Apted said further steps are being taken to strengthen the system.

He said that every day at 8pm, the general manager and the publisher are sent a list of stories with a summary.

Apted said that The Fiji Times, like any other media outlet, is facing great difficulties in attracting staff at the editorial level and they have lost senior people in the last few months. 

Justice Callanchini said the systems should have been in place before this incident took place.

The judgement will be delivered on notice by Justice Callanchini.



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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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