Pacific Freedom Forum, Cook Islands– Regional article 19 watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF have welcomed the decision by the Fiji High Court to acquit the Fiji Times and three of its senior staff on sedition charges.
“We are especially relieved to hear of the same for the fourth person charged, a member of the public whose commentary published through the vernacular Nai Lalakai paper, became the centre of the charges,” says PFF chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
“At a time when Pacific development involves the sharing of thoughts and ideas by citizens, it is not a good look when people are targeted for stepping up to express and defend their views.”
Says Co-chair Bernadette Carreon of Palau: “We hope this case will help the government of Fiji review the advice it is taking on the many sedition charges it has laid in recent years against a range of citizens. Sedition as a word carries the weight of betrayal of one’s country.
Ironically, Fiji Times could be seen to be doing exactly the opposite in meeting their first duty to serve the public interest.”
From Papua New Guinea, Co-Chair Alex Rheeney says it’s important to remember the ongoing impacts of self- censorship and insecurity within the media ranks, as well as human resource and legal costs to Fiji’s taxpayers with cases like this.
“I know Pacific media wantoks from across the sub regions join with me in upholding and supporting the Fiji Times leadership, staff and their families through this decision; it’s a victory for free speech and both sides of the court room should surely have been celebrating.”