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News Limited calls for free press in Fiji

1845 FJT
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Update: 6.45PM The chairman and chief executive of News Limited, the parent company of the Fiji Times, has called on the Fiji military to allow publication of the company's newspaper to continue without restrictions.

John Hartigan said in a statement that the military intervention raised serious concerns about the safety of employees and that the company was closely monitoring the situation.

"We will do whatever we can to uphold democracy and freedom of speech provided that we can also guarantee the safety of our staff in Fiji," he said.

"Fiji Times managing director Tony Yianni and editor Samisoni Kakaivalu are satisfied that normal publication can resume and they are handling this crisis with skill, diplomacy and courage," said Mr Hartigan.

There was no edition of the Fiji Times yesterday after armed representatives of the military entered the Times building in Suva and insisted on monitoring news content.

The military demanded approval rights for editorial material, and access to news sources, insisting it needed to prevent the Fiji Times "publishing government propaganda and information likely to incite civil unrest".

The production halt did not extend to the Fiji Times website which has continued its round the clock coverage free of military interference - at www.fijitimes.com

The military granted permission for the Fiji Times to resume publication at a meeting this morning.

A special afternoon edition is being produced today and normal daily publication is expected to resume tomorrow morning.

News Limited has also called on the Australian government to do whatever it can to ensure the most basic accepted principles of democracy and free speech can be upheld in Fiji and to persuade the Fiji military to allow unrestricted media coverage of the current crisis.

"Fiji's citizens have the right to expect unfettered access to objective, factual news reporting," Mr Hartigan said.





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