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FIJI: Reporters threatened over court coverage

* Pacific Media Watch Online:

http://www.pmw.c2o.org

SUVA: Fiji Islands reporters were abused and threatened outside the Labasa courthouse on the northern main island of Vanua Levu minutes before rebels were to appear before magistrate Maika Nakora, the Fiji Times reports.

On one occasion, armed soldiers guarding the Labasa Magistrates' Court verbally abused Fiji Times reporter Ruci Mafi before one slapped a camera out of her hand.

Another soldier later swore at her, saying the courthouse was out of bounds.

He also threatened to shoot despite attempts to reason with him.

Magistrate Nakora intervened to allow reporters into his courtroom later yesterday.

Complaints made to the Fiji Military Forces headquarters will also be looked into.

Three soldiers involved in the scare also waved their guns at the driver of a four-wheel drive vehicle the reporter was travelling in.

Two other reporters were also threatened outside the courthouse by soldiers yesterday.

* Rebels led by failed businessman George Speight seized Parliament at gunpoint on May 19 and held the elected Mahendra Chaudhry coalition government as hostages for 56 days. Since July 27, the Fiji military have mounted a crackdown on lawlessness and arrested Speight and hundreds of his followers.

With the cases at Labasa being reported above, magistrate Nakora released 32 men on bail after they were charged with unlawful assembly, obstructing public roads and obstructing a police officer.

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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