Pacific Media Watch
Politicians try to muzzle NZ duo
Title -- 1704 FIJI: Politicians try to muzzle NZ duo
Date -- 8 September 1998
Byline -- John Manukia and NZPA
Origin -- Pacific Media Watch
Source -- New Zealand Herald, 2/9/98
Copyright -- NZH/NZPA
Status -- Unabridged
FIJI PRESSES FOR WORK BAN TO MUZZLE NZ DUO
AUCKLAND: Fijian politicians are continuing to apply pressure to have work permits revoked for two Suva-based New Zealand journalism lecturers over alleged breaches of their permits.
But there is mounting international support for David Robie and Ingrid Leary from media organisations, human rights advocates and academics.
The pair, who attracted strong opposition from local media people when they took on lecturing jobs at the University of the South Pacific this year, have been accused of going outside their work permits by writing articles in local newspapers and on the Internet.
Many observers see the situation as a "test issue" for the nation's new constitution, particularly a clause referring to freedom of expression.
The Information Minister, Filipe Bole, has told the Fiji Senate that Mr Robie was breaching his work permit by writing news reports on his Internet website.
Ingrid Leary is under attack for teaching journalism part-time at the Fiji Journalism Institute, which is run by local journalists, and for writing a weekly column in the Daily Post.
However, the university said that both journalists were required by the university to write articles for publication.
The registrar, Sarojni Pillay, said university academic staff "have the perfect freedom to carry out academic research and publish it".
In editorials, Fiji's two daily newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Daily Post, condemned the attacks on the New Zealand journalists. The Times said it was draconian.
Support for the pair has come from the New Zealand Journalists Training Organisation (JTO), the Association of University Staff in New Zealand, Pacific Media Watch in Sydney and the Tahiti-Pacifique magazine.
The chief executive of the JTO, Bill Southworth, said the harassment of the two lecturers was disappointing.
"Perhaps those who wish to silence Robie and Leary should take time to read Fiji's new constitution. Section 30 says every person has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to receive and impart ideas."
Ingrid Leary said her newspaper column was what academics would label a conservative one that pushes the theme of media responsibility.
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