14 Dec 2005

Fiji court rejects opposition leader's gagging application

8:39 pm on 14 December 2005

The Suva High Court has rejected an application by the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, to stop the media from reporting statements made by the Fiji prime minister linking Mr Chaudhry to commissions from the 52-million US dollar sugar reform loan.

Radio Legend quotes Justice Anthony Gates as saying that Mr Chaudhry had failed to satisfy the court that false statements had been made by the prime minister.

Mr Chaudhry has been ordered to pay 450-US dollars as court costs to the prime minister and to Fiji TV.

Justice Gates said the courts are reluctant to grant such applications because of the right to freedom of speech, which also extends to the media.

He said the burden was on the plaintiff to prove that false statements had been uttered.

Justice Gates said they must provide credible evidence of the untruthfulness of the words before the courts can consider issuing a restraining order.

With regards to the defamation writ filed by Mr Chaudhry, Justice Gates said there was no evidence of the untruthfulness of the prime minister's statements and it was premature to consider the defamatory nature of the statements.

The defamation case will be heard on January the 9th.