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Expulsion of media executive from Fiji condemned

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand

2 May 2008 Media Statement

Expulsion of media executive from Fiji condemned

Prime Minister Helen Clark today expressed dismay at the deportation by the Fiji interim government authorities of Evan Hannah, a Fiji Times executive.

“This effort by the Fiji interim government to muzzle the media and close down free speech comes on top of the action taken earlier in the year to deport the editor of the Fiji Sun, Russell Hunter,” Helen Clark said.

“This action by the Fiji interim government action against Mr Hannah coincides with World Media Freedom Day. The regime clearly does not place a high value on freedom of the press.

“Such actions are not conducive to creating the kind of environment needed for free and fair elections to be held in Fiji by March 2009 as Commodore Bainimarama has promised.

“The manner of the deportation also suggests disregard for the rule of law. An injunction was secured last night by Mr Hannah’s lawyers to prevent his deportation. The injunction order was served on the relevant interim government authorities. Nonetheless they proceeded to enforce Mr Hannah’s departure on a Korean Air flight to Seoul earlier today. The Fiji Law Society has condemned the actions of the Fiji authorities.”

“The expulsion will be viewed with significant regional and international concern.

“The Pacific Island Forum countries have been encouraging Fiji to return to constitutional government by holding elections no later than March 2009. The interim government has provided assurances that this will happen. Yet actions like today’s deportation raise considerable doubts that it is genuinely prepared to relinquish power and allow elections to occur.”

New Zealand’s Acting High Commissioner in Suva, Caroline McDonald, is now seeking an urgent explanation from the Fiji interim government as to the justification for Mr Hannah's removal.

“No reasonable explanation was given for Mr Hunter’s expulsion earlier in the year, and we cannot see any basis for any reasonable explanation in the current case,” Helen Clark said.


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