26 Jul 2011

Fiji interim regime denies suppressing coverage of foreigners' deaths

8:00 pm on 26 July 2011

Fiji's interim regime is denying claims that it's suppressing information about the deaths of of two foreign men so as not to put Australian and New Zealand tourists off visiting the country.

The blog site Coup Four and a Half cites media sources in Suva claiming they have been warned not to report details of the two unrelated deaths - the murder of a New Zealand businessman and the apparent drowning of an American executive.

The site claims the two incidents have gone virtually unreported in Fiji, where emergency regulations imposed by the military regime allow the Ministry of Information to censor news coverage.

The anti-government blog site reported that journalists were told "to downplay both incidents for fear of the repercussions on the country's tourism industry."

New Zealand media has reported that businessman Tony Groom, who ran a charter boat operation in Denarau, had been beaten up and died a week later on July 15.

American Don Nicholas, chief executive of an anti-ageing medical institute, disappeared while surfing in a huge swell on a reef off Natadola, south of Nadi.

A Fiji government spokeswoman, Sharon Smith-Jones, said claims the deaths had been censored were untrue, adding that she believed the two incidents had been well covered by local media.