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Fiji Times fined

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Update: 6.06pmTHE High Court in Suva today fined Fiji Times Limited $100,000 and imposed a suspended prison sentence on its Editor-in-Chief, Netani Rika, for contempt of court.

Mr Rika was given a three-month jail term suspended for two years. The company was fined $100,000 and made to post a bond of $50,000 for good behaviour for two years.

Rex Gardner, the acting CEO of Fiji Times Ltd, was given a conditional discharge to be on good behaviour for 12 months.

Judge Thomas Hickie said judges were not immune to criticism, nor were they infallible, but the freedom of expression had been grossly abused in this case.

The Fiji Times had published a letter on October 22 last year critical of judges in the Qarase v Bainimarama court case. Justice Hickie found that the letter had gone beyond reasonable and fair criticism of the judges.

The Fiji Times published an apology about two weeks later.

Outside of court, Solicitor General Christopher Pryde said he was pleased with the ruling because it sent a strong message to media organisations to report responsibly or face the consequences.

Fiji Times Ltd lawyer Richard Naidu said it was a long judgment involving a number of legal issues and no statement would be issued until it had been fully studied by Fiji Timess lawyers.