[Fwd: FIJI: Coup attempt fails to silence media - 20.05.00]

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at SPAMgreenleft.org.au
Sat May 20 16:41:37 MDT 2000


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                 !! MEDIA FREEDOM ALERT FROM PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH !!
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Saturday 20.05.00
FIJI: Coup attempt fails to silence media

* Phone communications cut
* Internet slips the news through
* Journalists continue to report
* Radio main source for locals
* Web sites major source internationally
* Fiji Times only paper to publish today
* International media arrives


FIJI: The phone system in Fiji was shut down yesterday morning (19.05.00)
apparently by those involved in the faltering coup attempt led by failed
businessman George Speight.

But intermittent telecom connections have allowed email and website updates
to bring pictures and news out following yesterday's actions.

Major international news teams have flown in as Nadi airport remains open
and protected by police.

The only paper in Fiji able to be published today (Saturday), the Fiji
Times, states:

"It is wrong and dishonourable to back protests with guns and violence.
Threatening people's lives and putting their safety at risk is inexcusable.

"We have again witnessed how one moment of madness will set this country
back by decades. Everything we have worked hard to put right and goals we
have set for the nation have been ruined."

The interbet has reinforced its crucial role in bypassing blockages in
media communication by allowing some email and websites to produce news
updates on the coup attempt.


Best Fiji Web Sites for information on the 'coup' attempt:

http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/  - Reporting from USP's Journalism students.

http://www.fijilive.com - Breaking news from The Review journos.

http://fijivillage.com/news/ - Web site linked to FM96 and Fiji Times.


Media Freedom Alert 20.05.00 for Pacific Media Watch
Peter Cronau, Co-Convenor
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH
bfmedia at mpx.com.au

----------------------------------------------------------------------
         !! MEDIA FREEDOM ALERT FROM PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH !!
----------------------------------------------------------------------
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government
organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media
workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability,
censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.
Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at
the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media in Sydney, and
Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.
(c)1996-2000 Copyright - All rights reserved.

Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.
E-mail: niusedita at pactok.net.au
or: bfmedia at mpx.com.au
Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804
Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia
or, c/o Journalism, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji

** WATCH FOR PMW'S NEW WEB SITE LAUNCH ON 1 JUNE 2000 **


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BACKGROUND NEWS REPORTS FROM USP JOURNALISM STUDENTS REPORTING FROM ON THE
SPOT IN FIJI:
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USP Journalism News:
GUNMEN SEIZE PRIME MINISTER HOSTAGE IN FIJI COUP BID
19 May 2000: 12.30 pm
by Sheryl Ho, USP journalism student

An attempted coup has broken out in Fiji. A group of
seven masked men walkedinto Parliament this morning
carrying guns, fired shots and overthrew the
Government in what they called a "civil coup".

This follows a series of protests by some indigenous
 Fijians in the past few weeks  against Prime Minister
Mahendra Chaudhry's Government.

This morning a group of 7 men rode
into the Parliament complex in a mini bus
and announced to the police guards they
were there as witnesses to the Parliamentary session
of the day.

They are holding the Prime
Minister, Cabinet Members, the Speaker of the
House, Secretary-General of the
Senate in  the main chamber of the Parliament complex.
All are well according to coup
leader,  George Speight, the son of
opposition  member Sam Speight.

George Speight was the former managing  director of
the Fiji Hardwood Corporation which has been at the centre of
controversy in recent weeks.

Speight revealed his identity to a
senior police officer, Jahir Khan, by
ripping off  his mask when the policeman tried
to seek the release of the Speaker of the
House, Dr  Apenisa Kurusaqila.

Those protesting against the
Government who started at the Suva Flea market
are now at the Parliament complex.

They were at the back entrance and
are now sitting at the front entrance.

Police have tried to remove them
but the protesters are shouting
anti-government  remarks.

Inspector Sera Bernard has not said
whether or not they would have assistance
from the army yet and will inform the public
if they do.

The military are currently at the
National Operation Center.If in the event
that the coup does fail, political sources
said those involved could  be arrested for
treason.

Around the country: Air terminals (Nadi and Nausori)
have stepped up security and flights
have not been been affected.

Looting has started around the
streets of  Suva and a shop was reported on
as being ablaze. Looted shops included
Tapoo's, Jack's Handicrafts and Lala's store.

School children around the country
were told to go home. People have been told not to loiter
in the town area and police have stepped
up patrol around the main Suva area.

They are unable to control the public.
Wansolwara reporter Donna Hoerder
who was in town, witnessed Jack's
Handicraft store being stoned while people
just watched.

She said Police Commissioner Isekia
Savua tried to stop them but the looters
ignored him.


File created:19 May 2000
Copyright © 1999 Journalism Program
University of the South Pacific
PO Box 1168
SUVA, Fiji Islands
Tel: (679) 212685 Fax: (679) 313238

David Robie
Senior Lecturer and Coordinator
Journalism Programme
Email: David.Robie at usp.ac.fj
Pacific Journalism Online website:
http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/
David Robie's Cafe Pacific website:
http://www.asiapac.org.fj/
Pacific Media Watch:
http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/pmw/




Title -- 2729 POLITICS: Dissident gunmen claim control of Fiji
government
Date -- 20 May 2000
Byline -- David Robie
Origin -- Pasifik Nius
Source --  USP Journalism Programme, 20/5/00
Copyright -- USP Journalism Programme
Status -- Unabridged
-------------------
DISSIDENT GUNMEN CLAIM CONTROL OF FIJI GOVERNMENT

Watch for updates and pictures today: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/

By David Robie
USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: Civilian gunmen leader George Speight today defied mounting
international condemnation of the kidnapping of Fiji's elected cabinet,
claiming that his regime was now the legal government of the Pacific
nation.

His self-styled interim government named a list of "advisers" last night

but at least three of them denied any involvement on national radio and
condemned the attempted coup.

Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, the country's first Indo-Fijian prime
minister whose Fiji Labour Party was swept to a landslide victory in
last year's general election, his cabinet, and MPs have been detained
under armed guard in Parliament since yesterday morning.

While the police and military forces appeared loyal to constitutional
authority, Speight, a shaved-head timber industry businessman and
undischarged bankrupt, claimed that indigenous Fijians supported the
illegal regime.

He said that only the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and negotiator
Sitiveni Rabuka, who led the two 1987 military coups and was ousted as
prime minister by the Chaudhry coalition government, were not in
support.

President Mara declared a state of emergency last night and the armed
forces called up all reservists in the greater Suva area.

Speight claimed at a press conference that the 1997 constitution had
been revoked: "There is now no longer the office of the president."

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon joined the Australian, New
Zealand and United States governments in condemning the attempted coup
and calling on the kidnappers to abandon their action.

McKinnon warned on BBC Television that Fiji could face the fate of
Pakistan in being excluded from the Commonwealth if the coup succeeded.

He said there was total Commonwealth support for constitutional rule,
adding: "The police and army must stay on side with the elected
government.

On Radio Fiji this morning, McKinnon added that he was "sad and angry"
over the attempt to overthrow the elected government.

"I am very concerned and and very saddened by this," he said. "But I am
also very angry because  this was not necessary and it will set Fiji
back a long way. This will not help Fiji's international reputation at
all."

McKinnon said that he been in touch with Mara and said the Commonwealth
supported the president's attempts to reassert constitutional
government.

The Fiji Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF), a community-based group
which played a key role in the establishment of the multiracial 1997
constitution, strongly condemned the kidnapping of the government and
the looting and violence.

"We call especially on our international partners who have contributed
to the long process of democratisation in Fiji which culminated in our
1997 Constitution -  governments, churches, NGOs and committed
individuals - to join us in this chorus of condemnation against this
'civil coup'," said executive director Rev Akuila Yabaki.

"The group of seven armed men who have carried out these acts of
violence are made up of unpopular politicians and discredited
businessmen.  Anyone who thinks that the ethnic Fijian community can
benefit from this coup is living in a fool's paradise.

"The majority of Fiji's citizens voted overwhelming in support for
constitutional democracy in the last election in May 1997 - including a
majority of ethnic Fijians.  This violence is
not about protecting Fijian rights. It is about the interests of a few
at all of our expense.

"The leaders of this so-called coup have no legitimacy and do not
represent the breadth of Fijian support for constitutional democracy."

"We support the constitutional authority of [President Ratu Sir Kamisese

Mara] who is Fiji's Head of State.  The President has correctly declared

a state of emergency and is exercising executive authority.  We owe a
debt of gratitude to Fiji's law enforcement officials and our armed
forces for the difficult service they are performing in seeking to
uphold the rule of law."

About 48 per cent of the country's 800,000 population are indigenous
Fijians; 46 per cent are Indo-Fijians, and the rest are mixed-race or
ethnic minorities.

The Fiji Times, the only one of the country's three daily newspapers to
publish today, declared in an editorial that "the madness must end".

"It is wrong and dishonourable to back protests with guns and violence.
Threatening people's lives and putting their safety at risk is
inexcusable," the paper said.

"We have again witnessed how one moment of madness will set this country

back by decades. Everything we have worked hard to put right and goals
we have set for the nation have been ruined."

Police declared the central city zone of the capital Suva a "no go" zone

and said they were treating the entire central business district as a
crime scene after scores of looters smashed their way into stores and
set one shopping block, adjoining a newspaper office, ablaze yesterday
afternoon.

An unnamed police office told Radio Fiji that 160 shops had been looted.

Police barricades were thrown up on the main roads into the city.

The attempted coup leader George Speight was reportedly director of the
Wattle Group, an Australian investment company, which siphoned millions
of dollars from the Australian police, Fiji citizens and life savings.

Speight, son of the Opposition MP Savenaca Tokainavo, pleaded not guilty

to exchange rate charges and extortion in the High Court in Suva last
Monday.

He is a descendant of a fourth generation white colonist and is reputed
to not be a fluent Fijian speaker.

Speight was installed by former Finance Minister Jim Ah Koy (in the
Rabuka government) as head of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation, a
multimillion dollar company which was been at the centre of controversy
in recent months.

He said he had no apologies for what is seen is a racist, pro-Fijian
stance.

"We are not going to apologise to anybody and we are not going to step
back, and we are not going to be daunted by accusations of racism, or
one-sidedness," Speight said.

"At the end of the day, it is  [about] the supreme rights of our
indigenous people in Fiji, the desire is that it be returned - wholesome

and preserved for the future."

+++niuswire


Title -- 2730 POLITICS: Rabuka, armed forces loyal to Mara
Date -- 20 May 2000
Byline -- Joe Yaya
Origin -- Pasifik Nius
Source --  USP Journalism Programme, 20/5/00
Copyright -- USP Journalism Programme
Status -- Unabridged
-------------------
RABUKA, ARMED FORCES LOYAL TO MARA

See updates and pictures: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/

By Joe Yaya
USP Journalism Student

SUVA: Former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka today declared that the
dissident gunmen holding Fiji's elected government hostage were acting
illegally and that he supported the constitutional government.

"I cannot be seen as a breaker of the constitution I put in place," he
told reporters.

Mr Rabuka, Prime Minister of Fiji before being defeated in last year's
general election, has emerged as the key mediator in trying to break the
deadlock while the kidnapped government and MPs remain detained in
Parliament.

The Fiji police and military forces also reaffirmed at a joint media
conference today that they supported the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese
Mara, and said they would not take any orders from anybody else.

Police Commissioner Isikia Savua said the president was the sole legal
authority in Fiji.

"It is to the President of Fiji that the police owe allegiance and take
directives from now," he said.

"Fiji police will not accept any other instruction other than that of
his exellency, Ratu Sir Kamisese."

The acting commander of the military forces, Colonel Alfred Tuatoka,
also confirmed that the president remained commander-in-chief and the
army was bound by the 1997 constitution.

Mr Rabuka had earlier asked self-styled head of state George Speight and
the dissident civilian group which stormed Parliament yesterday to free
the hostages, but they refused to do so.

He also said on national radio that, as chairman of the Great Council of
Chiefs, he had called a meeting for Tuesday to inform the chiefs of the
situation and get a response from them.

"There are provisions and avenues that we can follow to reach an
agreement, but George Speight and his group will have to agree that the
president is the supreme rule in the country," said Mr Rabuka.

"We cannot have two regimes in control.

"One will have to be dismantled," he said.

"I believe I am still chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Mara
is still the President and the constitution is still in place," he
added.

Meanwhile, the chiefs from the Ba confederacy, including the chiefs of
Sabeto and Nadi, have condemned the actions of the dissident group, and
pledged their support for Ratu Mara.

+++niuswire

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients
should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting.
PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism
Program, University of the South Pacific.
Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:
niusedita at pactok.net.au
http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html


-----------------------------------------------------------
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH
-----------------------------------------------------------
PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government
organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media
workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability,
censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.
Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at
the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media in Sydney, and
Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.
(c)1996-2000 Copyright - All rights reserved.

Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.
E-mail: niusedita at pactok.net.au
or: bfmedia at mpx.com.au
Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804
Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia
or, c/o Journalism, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji

** WATCH FOR PMW'S NEW WEB SITE LAUNCH ON 1 JUNE 2000 **






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