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Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 09:04 UK

'Climate of fear' under Fiji army

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

The human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) has warned of "a climate of fear" in Fiji under the newly-reappointed military regime.

AI has just completed a fact-finding mission in the South Pacific nation.

It says citizens are living in fear because of "draconian measures" implemented since the abrogation of the constitution earlier this month.

Military chief Frank Bainimarama was reinstated as PM in spite of a court ruling that his regime was illegal.

The Court of Appeal - Fiji's second highest court - ruled that the military government was illegally appointed after a 2006 coup, and that democracy should be returned as soon as possible.

What is developing is a culture of extreme fear and intimidation
Apolosi Bose
AI's Pacific researcher

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo responded by dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution - only to reinstate Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister a day later.

Mr Bainimarama, who insists his rule is legitimate, has said there may not be democratic elections until 2014.

'Dictatorship'

The Amnesty International report said that human rights activists in Fiji were keeping quiet because of worries about their safety.

"What is developing is a culture of extreme fear and intimidation," said AI's Pacific researcher Apolosi Bose in a statement.

Local journalists have received death threats on their mobile phones and at their offices, the report says.

The media has been heavily censored, reporters have been detained and government critics silenced, it says.

The media has also been told by the military to practice "the journalism of hope" and write positive stories about the present situation, according to the human rights group.

AI suspects the government may also be monitoring emails, blogs and online diaries in an attempt to suppress criticism and opposition.

The Australian and New Zealand governments have said Fiji has effectively become a military dictatorship and have called for the restoration of democracy.

The UN has also expressed grave concerns about the situation.


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