Victims of government intimidation
Under Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, who has proved impossible to remove as prime minister ever since a military coup in 2006, journalists who are overly critical of the government are often subjected to intimidation or even imprisonment. The media have to operate under the draconian 2010 Media Industry Development Decree, which was turned into a law in 2018, and under the regulator it created, the Media Industry Development Authority, over which the government has direct oversight. Those who violate this law’s vaguely-worded provisions face up to two years in prison. The sedition laws, with penalties of up to seven years in prison, are also used to foster a climate of fear and self-censorship. Sedition charges poisoned the lives of three journalists with the Fiji Times, the leading daily, until they were finally acquitted in 2018. It was the price the newspaper paid for its independence, many observers thought. The newspaper’s distribution was banned in several parts of the archipelago at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 because – the government said – the press was not an essential service. The pro-government Fiji Sun was nonetheless distributed with complete normality in the same areas. There are two other significant media actors that sustain press freedom in the archipelago: the Fiji Village news website and associated radio stations, and the Mai TV media group.
52 in 2019
27.18 in 2019