Behind the Fiji censorship: a comparative media regulatory case study as a prelude to the Easter putsch
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On 10 April 2009, a military backed regime wrested total control of the Fiji Islands in what was arguably a fifth coup and imposed martial law. The then President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, abrogated the 1997 Constitution and dismissed the judiciary in response to a Court of Appeal ruling-by a bench of three Australian judges-that the interim government of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama established after the fourth coup in December 2006 was illegal. Bainimarama was reinstated, emergency regulations-including state censorship-were decreed and elections were deferred until 2014. Earlier, in the first five months of 2008, two expatriate publishers of the leading daily newspapers, the Murdoch-owned Fiji Times and the local Fiji Sun, were deported amid an international furore. In January 2009, a second Fiji Times publisher was expelled. Other journalists have been detained, threatened and harassed. Ironically, the military imposed censorship in the Easter putsch followed two reviews of Fiji's self-regulatory mechanisms in an attempt to strengthen the media landscape. One controversial report has since been used by the military regime as a justification for a plan to consolidate all existing media laws under a single 'Media Promulgation' law. During a parallel time frame, the New Zealand Press Council also conducted an independent review. With reference to the media accountability systems (M*A*S) model developed by the late Claude-Jean Bertrand, this article analyses the public right to know discourse in Fiji in the context of an authoritarian regime.