Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fiji: establishing a police state

A year after overthrowing a democratically elected government, Fiji's military regime is now working on establishing a police state, with plans to revive the Fiji Intelligence Services. Naturally, "terrorism" is the excuse, but it seems more likely that it will be searching for "espionage, sabotage, [and] sedition" among Fiji's people and media (both of whom the army now explicitly views as enemies) than combatting any real threat.

Meanwhile, in another example of its new Orwellian nature, the Fiji Human Rights Commission has released a report into Freedom and Independence of the Media in Fiji [PDF, slow link], in which it implicitly redefines "media freedom" to mean "freedom to print the government's version of the truth", and calls for Singapore-style controls on the media, the enaction of legislation to outlaw the publication or broadcast of material which can "incite sedition" or a breach of the Public Order Act. It also calls for the work permits of all foreign journalists in Fiji to be revoked or not renewed, and for no further permits to be issued (the latter in particular seems to be aimed at expatriate editors from Australia and New Zealand and fears from the military that those countries might seek to "control the Pacific Islands"). While it claims to be from a human rights perspective, there's no top-level discussion of human rights principles or international instruments around media freedom, why it is necessary, what other rights it must be balanced against, or how other countries have approached this balancing act. Neither is there any top-down discussion of journalistic ethics. Instead, the entire thing reads like an extended bitch against the Fijian media (many of whom had personally annoyed the consultant and his employers), with solutions pulled out of thin air at the end. I'd be embarassed to read this from a graduate student; to think that a government agency actually paid for such tripe is shocking.