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Page last updated at 04:28 GMT, Monday, 13 April 2009 05:28 UK

Media crackdown by Fiji military

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

Frank Bainimarama, 9 April 2009 (image from Fijian government website)
Army chief Frank Bainimarama has strengthened his grip on power

Fijians are feeling the force of a new military government with censors now controlling the media.

Under a 30-day state of emergency, newspapers and broadcasters are not allowed to carry stories critical of the army's grip on power in Fiji.

Army chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been reinstated as prime minister.

He regained office after the president scrapped the constitution and dismissed the judges who had declared the military government to be illegal.

Editors at Fiji's newspapers as well as its television and radio stations have been ordered not to publish or broadcast any material that shows the military in a bad light.

Journalists must submit any sensitive stories to government officials for approval.

Should these directives be ignored then media organisations could be shut down.

Defiance

There has been some attempt by newspapers and broadcasters to voice their displeasure.

The Fiji Times left one of its pages blank except for a message which said that that certain stories could not be printed because of government regulations.

Fiji Television's main evening news bulletin was cancelled in protest at the restrictions. It was replaced by a programme about fishing.

The Fiji Media Council said the censorship of the press was a tragedy for a country where free and vigorous reporting has become a proud tradition.

Fiji has been run by its army chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, since December 2006, when troops ousted an elected government that senior officers said was corrupt and discriminating against the ethnic Indian minority.

Last week, the military take-over was declared illegal by the country's Court of Appeal, which prompted Commodore Bainimarama to step down as interim prime minister.

Fiji's President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who is a loyal supporter of the armed forces commander, responded by scrapping the constitution and dismissing the judiciary.

The military administration was reinstated, its grip on power now stronger than ever.



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