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Fiji deports Australian publisher, citing threat to national security

Fiji deports Australian publisher, citing threat to national security

Fiji's military-led government deported the Australian publisher of a daily newspaper on Tuesday after declaring him a threat to national security, drawing accusations of intimidation and a crackdown on free speech.
Russell Hunter, publisher and managing director of The Sun, was taken from his home in the capital, Suva, on Monday night and escorted to Nadi International airport, where he was deported to Australia on Tuesday morning, Defense and National Security Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau said.
Hunter violated immigration laws because he "was conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defense, public safety, public order, security and stability of the sovereign state of the Fiji Islands," Ganilau said.
Hunter said on his arrival in Australia that he believed he was deported because of stories The Sun had published alleging that Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was involved in tax evasion.
"We were expecting it," Hunter told reporters.
Chaudhry had threatened to sue the newspaper over the reports, Hunter said. "But if he's going to sue, why deport me?"
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the country's military commander who seized power in a December 2006 coup, said in a statement his government was committed to a free press but media freedoms must have limitations.
"This freedom must therefore be exercised carefully in ensuring that our citizens are informed in a balanced, accurate and truthful manner ... at all times," he said.
He said some of The Sun's reporting "has been inciteful and destabilizing and therefore a threat to national security and stability."
There was no immediate response from the Australian government.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Hunter's deportation was an example of rising intimidation by Bainimarama's government.
"I'm very concerned at this attempt to shut down freedom of speech and media," she told reporters. "To deport a newspaper ... publisher is a very serious move."
It is the latest move against Fiji's media by Bainimarama's government.
Within days of seizing power it posted censors in newspaper offices, withdrawing them after a storm of public protest, and tried to close down Internet blogger sites critical of the government.
The editor of the Fiji Daily Post newspaper and the news director of state-owned TVOne television channel were picked up and taken to army headquarters and cautioned over editorial content.
Bainimarama has pledged to hold elections that would restore democracy by the end of March 2009, though critics have expressed concern that he may not keep the promise.


Updated : 2021-05-07 17:39 GMT+08:00