Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Fiji deports Australian publisher, citing threat to national security

Fiji deports Australian publisher, citing threat to national security

Fiji's coup-installed government was accused Tuesday of muzzling free speech after it deported a newspaper publisher for what the Pacific island country's military leader called "destabilizing" reporting.
Australian citizen Russel Hunter, who is publisher and managing director of Fijian daily The Sun, said he believed he was expelled for running articles exposing tax irregularities involving a senior government minister.
Hunter was taken from his home in Fiji's capital of Suva on Monday night and escorted to Nadi International airport, where he was deported to Australia on Tuesday morning, Hunter and government officials said.
Defense and National Security Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau said Hunter had violated immigration laws because he "was conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defense, public safety, public order, security and stability" of Fiji.
Hunter told reporters in Australia 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 said of his expulsion.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's military commander who seized power in a December 2006 coup, said in a statement that media freedoms must have limits.
"This freedom must therefore be exercised carefully in ensuring that our citizens are informed in a balanced, accurate and truthful manner," he said.
Some of The Sun's reporting "has been inciteful and destabilizing and therefore a threat to national security and stability," Bainimarama said. He did not specify what he believed it might incite.
The deportation was condemned by media industry groups and the governments of Australia and New Zealand, the South Pacific's regional power brokers.
"This would appear to be another move by the illegal Fiji interim government to muzzle freedom of speech," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said, adding that his country had lodged a formal protest with Fiji's government.
"This is another act in a disturbing pattern of behavior since the coup of December 2006 which has resulted in the severe erosion of fundamental human rights and the rule of law in Fiji," Smith said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Hunter's deportation was an attempt at intimidation by Bainimarama's government.
"To deport a newspaper ... publisher is a very serious move," she said.
The Pacific Islands News Association, a group representing newspaper, television and other media outlets in 21 of the region's countries, condemned the deportation as a serious threat to freedom of expression and information.
"This action tells the world the military regime in place has no respect for good governance and transparency," association president Joseph Ealedona said in a statement.
It was the latest move against Fiji's media by Bainimarama's government. In the days after his coup it sent military officials to interrogate senior journalists at newspapers and television stations and tried but failed to shut down Internet blogger sites critical of the government.


Updated : 2021-08-03 10:05 GMT+08:00