The interim, military-supported government continued to violate freedom of expression and intimidate journalists and members of the public.
The Fiji Human Rights Commission supported the expulsion of senior media figures from the country and attacked the role played by human rights NGOs in Fiji civil society. Reports of violence against women continued.
Freedom of expression
In February, Minister of Defence Epeli Ganilau ordered Russell Hunter, publisher of the Fiji Sun, to be deported to Australia after a series of articles were published alleging that a senior cabinet minister had evaded tax.
The deportation was carried out by immigration officials despite the seven-day notice and appeal period given in Minister Ganilau’s order. Hunter had no opportunity to challenge the Minister’s decision.
In May, Immigration officials deported Evan Hannah, publisher of the Fiji Times, to Australia after a number of articles critical of the interim government were published.
During his arrest and detention, Evan Hannah had no opportunity to appeal against the decision to deport him, nor did he have access to his lawyer once he was removed from his home.
Government officials ignored a court order instructing immigration and police officials to produce Evan Hannah in the Suva High Court on 2 May.
In August, journalist Serafina Silaitoga was subjected to threats and intimidation by police officers in Labasa, after her article criticizing a senior Cabinet Minister was published in the Fiji Times on 9 August. Police officers tried to force her to make a statement on her article and when she refused to do so without legal representation, threatened to lock her in a police cell.
In February, a report commissioned by the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) called for greater regulation of the media, including the setting up of a media tribunal. In August, the interim government announced that it would establish a tribunal to provide stronger regulation of the media.
In June, an FHRC report on the deportation of the two above newspaper publishers attacked NGOs and called for increased government scrutiny of their activities and funding. The report also published confidential emails between NGO representatives and the newspaper publishers discussing the political situation in Fiji.
The ousted leader of the opposition, Mick Beddoes, raised a concern that the Commission was able to access private and confidential emails between human rights defenders and other individuals working for human rights NGOs.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In July, escaped prisoner Josefa Baleiloa was severely beaten by police officers during and following his recapture in Suva. Josefa Baleiloa was in a coma for two weeks and died as a result of his injuries in September.
According to television news reports, Josefa Baleiloa was beaten by more than 10 police officers long after he had been subdued. Witnesses reported that officers dragged Josefa Baleiloa, beat him with pieces of timber and stones, jumped on him after he lost consciousness and continued to do so as he was taken away in a police vehicle.
No investigation into his death has been carried out.
Violence against women and girls
Levels of violence against women remained high. Reports of sexual violence against women and girls increased.