Coupfourpointfive calls on the regime in Fiji to imemdiately lift the media censorship that has been in place for several months. We are calling for its lifting because it just demonstrates that a free and independent media is the only way to ensure that the alleged crimes of the likes of Mahendra Chaudhry and others does not go undetected.
Whether Chaudhry is guilty or not is not an issue, the point is that if it not been for a free and fearless media, the case would never have come before the court.
We reproduce the citation from the Fiji Media Council which awarded to Russell Hunter and Victor Lal the 2008 Robert Keith-Reith Award for Outstanding Journalism over Chaudhry's millions in overseas bank accounts.Below is the citation.
“This year’s Robert Keith-Reid Award for Outstanding Journalism is multi-faceted. It goes to two people who are not present tonight, and involves more than one publication.
The main recipients are Russell Hunter, former editor-in-chief and publisher of the Fiji Sun, and Victor Lal, the newspaper’s UK-based investigative reporter.
“To them and the Fiji Sun goes a joint and well-earned accolade. They receive this for reportage on highly controversial taxation, and other matters associated with overseas bank accounts of the former interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry.
Hunter’s leadership and support for Lal and the Sun’s editorial team provided the professional context for what is arguably the best example of investigative journalism in the history of the Fiji media.
“Mr Hunter knew that in the current climate he was putting himself at risk. But this did not deter him from pursuing the great cause of the public’s right to know,
“Along with Mr Lal, he acted in the best traditions of crusading journalism. Mr Hunter and his newspaper paid a heavy price when he was virtually abducted from his home at night and summarily deported.
“Victor Lal displayed extraordinary persistence and skill in developing and uncovering the story in a series of articles over several months. His was a fine example of research and analysis based on documentation made available to him by sources who were also prepared to take a risk. The topic was complex requiring meticulous attention to detail in accomplishing and presenting the facts.
“To the Fiji Times and its editor Netani Rika, the judges give a special commendation for first publication of the name of the person at the centre of the controversy. It was not long after that the Fiji Times’ publisher Evan Hannah was also deported.
“The judges wish to acknowledge the work of all journalists who have been threatened or intimidated during a perilous time for the media and yet have continued to stand by the principles of their craft in defending media freedom and the people’s right to be informed.”
The two co-winners, Lal and Hunter, could not collect the award in person because both of them, following the $2million story, are on the Fiji military government's blacklist of banned persons from entering the country.
Editor's Note: The present coup paper Fiji SUN and its pro-regime editor and owners can not claim any kudos over the $2million story - its copyright belongs to C4/5 columnist Victor Lal and the deported Fiji SUN publisher Russell Hunter, now with The Samoa Observer.