Fiji extends emergency and media censorship for a month


Wellington : Fiji’s military regime is extending emergency regulations, which include media censorship and a ban on political meetings, for another month, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Monday.

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The extension of emergency powers announced April 10 after the constitution was abolished and the Pacific island nation’s judges were sacked was necessary because the media was “unprofessional and biased”, he told Radio New Zealand in an interview from the capital, Suva.

The emergency regulations, due to expire Sunday, would now remain in place until June 10.

The decision followed the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum’s suspension of Fiji’s membership Saturday for failing to name a date for a return to democracy and fresh elections this year.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters in Wellington that despite the suspension, the forum was likely to maintain its permanent secretariat in Suva.

“At this stage, it’s likely that they’ll stay, but that’s always subject to change if circumstances warrant that,” he said.

Key said it was unlikely that Fiji would expel the forum’s civil servants because it was a large employer and forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade had told him that “at this stage, it’s still workable”.

Military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama has governed Fiji since he ousted the elected government in a bloodless coup in December 2006.

He has said there would be no elections until September 2014 when changes to the electoral system giving the ethnic Indian minority equal voting rights with indigenous Fijians would be in place.

Fiji Law Society president Dorsami Naidu told Radio New Zealand that the regime was shutting down any dissent and there was no justification for the emergency regulations.

He described the situation in the country of about 840,000 people as unpredictable.