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Military Detain Radio Fiji Three At Gunpoint

SUVA: Fiji's military forces have detained two senior editorial management staff and a journalist from state-run Radio Fiji for questioning over a report on the station's early morning news bulletins, according to news reports.

Although the military played down the detention and denied that the three had been arrested, colleagues at the station said the three - acting chief executive Francis Herman, news director Vasiti Waqa and reporter Maca Lutunauga - were taken away by soldiers at gunpoint.

At the time of this report by Pacific Media Watch, the three had been detained for more than six hours with no indication of when they would be released.

According to the regional news cooperative Pacnews on 20 October 2000, military spokesperson Major Howard Politini confirmed the three were being questioned in relation to a story broadcast by Radio Fiji.

Asked by Pacnews whether the trio went voluntarily, Major Politini said "he did not know because he did not accompany the soldiers to the radio station".

Pacnews said it had been told that Ms Waqa had called her newsroom half an hour after her detention to instruct her reporters not to use the word "arrested." She said that the army had taken them in for "questioning".

"She said she could not say much. She used her boss's mobile phone to talk to her reporters," reported Pacnews.

The military was reportedly angered by a Radio Fiji news report that quoted an army source as saying that the military objected to having the Vice-President, Ratu Jope Seniloli, act as president and army commander in chief when the country's president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, leaves for a long overdue medical treatment in Sydney.

"The radio report said the military did not want to take orders from Ratu Jope because he was nominated for the post by coup leader George Speight, who now faces treason charges and is awaiting trial with 20 of his key supporters on Nukulau, an uninhabited island off the Suva coast," Pacnews said.

Radio Fiji reported in its main bulletin at noon on October 20 that two senior army officers were interrogating Waqa; Herman, who is also general manager public broadcasting of the station; and reporter Lutunauga.

"Radio Fiji said the three were being questioned by the Fiji Military Forces' deputy commander, Colonel Alfred Tuatoko and the military's lawyer, Major Etueni Caucau. The two senior officers were demanding that the trio reveal the source of their story," reported Pacnews.

On the station's 5.40pm new bulletin, Herman was cited as saying that Radio Fiji stood by its story and had not revealed any sources.

A Radio Fiji spokesperson told Pacific Media Watch that the three had been taken to Central Police Station about 5pm for further questioning. At that stage they had been detained for more than six hours.

+++niuswire

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


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