AUCKLAND (PMC Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Pacific Media Centre, a regional development communication research and publication resource, has condemned the Fiji regime's 'ruthless censorship' of news organisations and called for an end to intimidation.
The condemnation follows a canned news bulletin by Fiji Television tonight and a blank page and story spaces in today's Sunday edition of the Fiji Times by news editors in protest over censored content.
Fijilive also reported "withdrawing" some news items as censors maintained a presence in the country's newsrooms since the 30-day Public Emergency Regulations came into force.
Some journalists reported a "climate of silence" in some newsrooms in response to the censorship.
Associate Professor David Robie, director of New Zealand's AUT University-based PMC, called on the Fiji regime of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to "end this Orwellian era of ruthless censorship and intimidation".
"The people of Fiji should be allowed free and unfettered media coverage, especially at this time of uncertainty and anxiety," he said.
"A gagged and intimidated media will only lead to rumours, disinformation and more instability."
The regime earlier called on the nation's media to refrain from publishing "negative" stories about the actions of the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo over the past few days.
On Good Friday, the president abrogated the 1997 Constitution, sacked the nation's judges and declared himself Head of State.
This followed a Court of Appeal judgment on Thursday which ruled that the interim government of Prime Minister Bainimarama was illegal.
The president reappointed Bainimarama as prime minister and Fiji is now being ruled by decree, including one that has imposed newsroom censorship by Ministry of Information officials and police.
Editors were told not to publish or broadcast items that may involve "incitement" and undermine law and order.
Major Neumi Leweni, who is also Permanent Secretary of Information, asked all news media to “immediately refrain from publishing and broadcasting any news item that is negative in nature, relating to the assumption of executive authority on 10 April by his Excellency the President, and the subsequent appointments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers”.
Section 3 of the regulations state that anybody or organisation that “fails in any way whatsoever" to comply with the state provisions may be ordered to "cease all activities and operations".
In today's Sunday Times, page 2 was left blank apart from a downpage box that declared: "The stories on this page could not be published due to government restrictions."
Five dummied up story spaces were left blank on page 3 and a political cartoon space on the page 6 opinion section was also blank.
The ministry has reportedly warned the Fiji Times to stop leaving blank spaces or face closure under the decree.
After leaving out an item in last night's 6pm bulletin news due to censorship, Fiji Television pulled its main bulletin tonight.