Monday, May 11, 2009

Fiji: truth is now a crime

Last week, Fiji's military junta released two groups of soldiers who had tortured and murdered civilians in the wake of the 2006 coup. They're clearly not too proud of doing so - because over the weekend they summarily detained two Fiji Live journalists for daring to report the fact:

Two Suva journalists have spent their second night in police cells after they reported on how the Fiji military dictatorship had freed soldiers jailed for killing civilians.

Media sources in Suva, who cannot be named due to fears for their safety, hold concerns for Dionisia Turagabeci and Shelvin Chand, of the website Fijilive. The website is not reporting on the fate of its own journalists.

Dictator Voreqe Bainimarama imposed martial law on Fiji last month and has extended it another month, imposing censorship on all media.

Earlier this year a soldier was convicted of murdering a civilian. In a separate case nine soldiers and three policemen were convicted of the manslaughter of a civilian.

They were sent to jail for terms ranging from eight years to life, but last week all were released on parole.

Fijilive reported this on Friday and on Saturday Turagabeci and Chand were picked up and taken to Suva Central Police Station.

The excellent Coup 4.5 blog has more:
Coupfourpointfive has been told that an officer told relatives that both journalists have been charged for contravening emergency regulations and will appear in the Suva Magistrates Court tomorrow [sic]
A charge under the Public Emergency Regulations 2009 [PDF] means that the government thinks that the information published
may give rise to disorder and may thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or the Armed Forces, or may result in a breach of the peace, or promote disaffection or public alarm, or undermine the Government and the State of Fiji
Think about that for a moment. The report was truthful and accurate. The criminals had been released. The Fijian government is now in the Orwellian position of contending that truthfully reporting their actions "undermine[s] the Government and the State of Fiji". If so, then I suggest the real problem lies in the actions of the government - not that they are reported.

Update: According to Raw Fiji News, the journalists have now been released. No word yet on whether the charges have been dropped.