Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Third Fiji publisher 'expelled'

Frank Bainimarama, file image
Military leader Frank Bainimarama has been criticised over his rights record

Military rulers in Fiji have moved to expel an Australian newspaper publisher - the third such case in a year.

Rex Gardner and the Fiji Times were convicted of contempt of court for publishing a letter criticising judges who supported the 2006 military coup.

Fijian newspapers report that Mr Gardner will be deported on Tuesday.

It comes a day before a regional forum meets in Papua New Guinea to discuss Fiji's failure to restore democracy since the coup.

Australia and New Zealand have been pushing for a harder line on Fiji's government, but smaller island nations have refused to back them.

In May, Mr Gardner's predecessor at the Fiji Times, Evan Hannah, was expelled for "breaching national security", just weeks after the editor of the Fiji Sun was deported.

But critics of the government labelled the move an attack on free speech, and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said it was a "reprehensible act" which continued the pattern of "severe erosion of human rights" in Fiji.

Fiji's government, led by Frank Bainimarama, came to power in a coup in 2006.

It has been widely criticised by rights groups and governments in the region.

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