Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A victory for freedom of the press in Fiji

For the past three weeks, Fiji Times executives and journalists have been on trial for sedition over a letter to the editor that they published. Today, they were acquitted:

Fiji's High Court has found three executives of The Fiji Times newspaper and another man not guilty of sedition.

The four men, and the newspaper itself, were charged with sedition over a letter published in the indigenous language publication Nai Lalakai in 2016.


During a three-week trial the prosecution had argued the aim of the letter was to sow feelings of ill-will towards Muslim Fijians.

But in handing down his verdict, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe said, "the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the letter was seditious" and he acquitted all four men of the charge.

Its a clear victory for freedom of the press, and an unexpected one - the Fijian judiciary is not noted for its independence (in part because they hire judges on short-term contracts, rather than appointing them for life). And I'm now wondering whether Justice Rajasinghe will have his contract renewed, or whether he'll effectively be fired by the government for failing to punish its enemies.