12 Aug 2013

Sentence prompts concern from CCF partner over freedom in Fiji

1:35 pm on 12 August 2013

An international charity working with Fiji's Citizens' Constitutional Forum says it is concerned legal action against the NGO will curtail freedom of expression and public debate in Fiji.

The Fiji group's CEO, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, received a three month jail sentence, suspended for a year following CCF's reprinting of an article raising concern about the impartiality of Fiji's judiciary.

Yabaki and his organisation have together been fined ten and a half thousand US dollars and ordered to pay court costs of about two and a half thousand dollars.

One of CCF's partners, Conciliation Resources, says civil society in Fiji must be free to highlight inadequacies and promote change, in the interests of a peaceful transition to democracy.

The UK-based group's Executive Director, Andy Carl, says it is disappointing the prosecution was brought in the first place.

He says the CCF and its head play vital roles in Fiji by both engaging in dialogue with the government while also championing human rights and the return to constitutional rule.

Mr Carl says they walk a fine line with a great deal of courage and vision.