26 Feb 2008

Deported Fiji Sun publisher declared security risk

4:16 pm on 26 February 2008

The Australian publisher of the Fiji Sun, Russell Hunter, has been deported and declared a prohibited immigrant.

A statement from the office of Defence and Immigration Minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, says an investigation showed Mr Hunter was conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, security and stability of the sovereign state of the Fiji Islands.

Ratu Epeli says Mr Hunter has clearly violated the terms and conditions of his status in Fiji and is now a prohibited immigrant.

This follows recent media reports about the tax affairs of the interim finance minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mr Hunter was detained last night and flown to Sydney today.

The interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has assured the public that media freedom is secure and guaranteed.

Meanwhile, the Media Council in Fiji is planning to work out a response to the deportation.

The Director of the Pacific Media Centre at the Auckland University of Technology, David Robie, believes the media is now facing another wave of pressure:

"The regime thinks the media should perform a parrot like role and there is a long tradition of vigours and free journalism in Fiji and the current media are upholding that tradition very well."

David Robie, who taught at the University of the South Pacific in Suva for a number of years, describes the interim administration as a virtual dictatorship that doesn't understand the role of the media.