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Threats To Democracy In Fiji

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Statement On Threats To Media And Civil Freedoms, Democracy In Fiji

We, the newly-formed Pacific Freedom Forum, are an online network of Pacific media colleagues with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific communities to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.

We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.

In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

We call on civil society and governments in the region to stop the deafening silence and openly condemn the ongoing intimidation and harassment of media and civil society workers in Fiji.

The police detention of journalists on dubious grounds goes beyond breaching basic human rights.

The increasingly threatening abuse is clearly aimed at spreading fear amongst media workers, activists, and their families. There should be no reason why the current government should need to bypass its own laws, or media complaint procedures already in place via the Fiji Media Council.

The people of Fiji need to know that their Pacific brothers and sisters are aware of their uneasy situation. They need to know we are united and unanimous in condemning the type of leadership and policing aimed at silencing democratic processes of dissent, debate or criticism.

We call on individuals, organizations and governments attending the 39th Pacific Leaders' Forum in Niue this week to put the spotlight on the situation in Fiji during their deliberations and reaffirm the promise made to all Pacific people, including the people of Fiji, within the vision of the Pacific Plan. Our Forum Leaders and the broader regional and international community must ensure the current government be left in no doubt that intimidation and harassment of its people cannot go hand in hand with rhetoric claiming support of human rights and freedom of the media.

The Freedom Forum supports the call of the Pacific Islands News Association this week for a concerted and collaborative effort from regional leaders to demand that Fiji respects its promise to establish a democratic and legal regime in the country.

Our leaders have already identified breaking the silence on HIV and AIDS as a way of fighting the epidemic in the Pacific. We say it is time to break the silence over the threats to media and democracy in Fiji and put its regime on notice that their continued intimidation of their own citizenry is unacceptable.

ends

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