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Fiji: Defamation During Elections, Journos Warned

Beware Of Defamation During Elections, Journos Warned

By Sakiasi Nawaikama and Erica Lee

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): A prominent lawyer and former journalist has advised the media to have its ‘defamation antennas up’ during Fiji’s general elections in May.

Speaking at a three-day Fiji media and election workshop at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Richard Naidu said the media became susceptible to attacks from politicians during elections.

Fiji goes to the polls for the week-long general election - the second since the attempted 2000 coup - on May 6-13.

Naidu told local and regional journalists that while politicians may be more accessible to journalists during an election year, they were always in a "fearsome attack mode" during this period.

"The media is attacked for bias and not fairly reporting one party against another party. You must restrain yourself from the desire to retaliate in a way that is not objective or fair," Naidu said.

He reminded journalists that Fiji’s defamation law favoured the plaintiff. He also pointed out that a candidate in an election had no greater rights than anybody else.

Journalists could use "truth and justification" as defences against defamation but would still have to prove by balance of probabilities that everything on the document or what was said was true.

The workshop, which ended yesterday, was hosted by the Democracy and the Electoral Studies Programme in collaboration with the Fiji Electoral Commission/Elections Office.

There were 20 registered participants from Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga. The majority of the participants were from Fiji news organisations.



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