Human Rights at threat in Fiji

In the NZ blogosphere there has been a diversity of opinion on . Most have been highly critical of Bainimarama, but several (mainly on the right) have supported him, as they admired him standing up for the minority Indians and wanting to abolish the race based constitution.

To be honest over the last year I had been creeping more towards the camp that if he does get rid of the race based constitution, and hands over power to a truly democratic Government, then he may be seen one day on the side of the good guys.

But no-one should be defending his regime’s attack on media freedom. Supressing criticism at he point of a gun is what the Stalinist bloc used to do, and what Castro and Kim do.

The Dom Post report:

Fiji’s military have been given permission to shoot civilians without fear of being prosecuted.

Terrified Fijians say they are too frightened to speak out after the latest political upheaval, which has seen the nation’s media gagged by sweeping state censorship restrictions in a crackdown on dissenting free speech.

So the military are now totally above the law.

Reports emerged yesterday of people being detained without charge in the absence of a judiciary. Public Emergency Regulations imposed by the military regime have given military personnel permission to use arms to break up processions, meetings or assemblies. If anyone is injured or killed, the decree grants soldiers immunity from prosecution.

Hardly likely to encourage soldiesr to use restraint!

Yesterday’s Fiji Times had blank pages after police censors forced the paper to erase international reaction to latest developments.

The first action of a tyrant is to stop people being able to hear the truth.

Privately owned Fiji TV pulled its 6pm news bulletin yesterday, refusing to allow the military regime to censor its broadcast.

Good on them. And a useful reminder why the media should not be owned by the state.

“We must all be loyal to Fiji, we must be patriotic,” Commodore Bainimarama said. “The necessary regulations are in force. I’m sure we will all including the media co-operate with the relevant agencies.”

And if not, we’ll shoot you.

A Fijian citizen, too afraid to be named, spoke from Suva yesterday about his fear of being arrested, beaten or killed for speaking out. “There’s no constitution, there’s no law. They are the law.”

Many Fijians had struggled since sanctions against the regime crippled the economy, the man said. “People cannot afford to send their children to school or put food on the table. People are just struggling to find ways and means to live. You can’t fight the military because they’re the ones with the guns.

“Everybody’s praying and hoping that things will change soon that will return the government back to democratic elections … where people are free to speak [and] you’re not always looking back and worried about what will happen to you and your family.”

The promise to have elections by 2014 should only be believed by those of terminal stupidity. It does not take eight years to run a census, draft a new constitution and run an election.

One can debate the pros and cons of what Bainimarama claims he wants to achieve. But there should be no debate at all in condemning his attacks of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

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