New Zealand journalists feel force of Fiji’s contempt for human rights

The arrest and detention in Fiji of three journalists from New Zealand’s Newsroom website highlights the grim situation for press freedom in Fiji, Amnesty International said today, as it called on authorities to urgently adopt measures to end the harassment of journalists and human rights defenders.

Where is the apology for Fiji’s own journalists, many of whom go to work every day fearing harassment and prosecution under draconian laws for doing their jobs?
Roshika Deo, Pacific Researcher

Mark Jennings, Melanie Reid and Hayden Aull were arrested on the evening of 3 April by police in Suva, Fiji. They had been trying to interview a company called Freesoul Real Estate Development, which Newsroom had previously linked to environmental devastation in Fiji, and which accused them yesterday of criminal trespass. The journalists were detained overnight before being freed on the morning of 4 April. Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama apologised for the treatment that the three journalists received, saying it was an ‘isolated incident’.

“In reality, the arrests of these journalists are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Fiji’s intolerance of freedom of expression. Fiji’s government regularly harasses and arrests activists and journalists who take part in protests or express criticism of the authorities. Where is the apology for Fiji’s own journalists, many of whom go to work every day fearing harassment and prosecution under draconian laws for doing their jobs?” said Roshika Deo, Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher.

“While we welcome the release of these three journalists, we hope this incident will shine an international spotlight on the shocking extent of media censorship in Fiji. We are calling on the Fijian authorities to amend their draconian laws on freedom of expression and commit to protecting human rights in law and in practice.”

In November 2018 Amnesty International published a Human Rights Agenda for Fiji ahead of national elections. The organization highlighted the cases of several media workers who had been arrested for doing their jobs, as well as the increasing use of sedition laws and other criminal provisions to target activists and journalists.

Amnesty international is calling on Fiji to adopt measures set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to ensure the safety of journalists who act to promote and protect the rights of others, including the safety of other human rights defenders. These measures should include issuing a public statement recognizing the status and role of human rights defenders and the legitimacy of their activities, and adopting policies to protect the rights of human rights defenders.