Pacific Media Watch

6 April 2014

FIJI: Government may start spying on citizens' internet use, Law Society warns

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SUVA (Pacific Media Watch / Radio New Zealand International): The Fiji Law Society says a military decree allowing the government to snoop on citizen's phone conversations and internet activities is a "breach of freedom, expression and privacy".

Dorsami Naidu, president of the Fiji Law Society, told Radio New Zealand International that the decree - which allows the government to put its citizens under surveillance in the 48 hours before the elections - aims to "control the public".

Nobody is allowed to communicate any 'political message' by any means in the 48 hours before the elections, and a fine of US$ 27,000, or 10 years in jail, is the penalty for doing so.

"It seems as though they want to control our thoughts and minds prior and during the election process, when we're supposed to be going back to democracy," Naidu told RNZI.

Fiji-based journalism academic Pat Craddock told RNZI that there were already many Fijian blogs that the government had been unable to control and so it was unlikely that the decree would be very effective in monitoring the whole population.

There are harsh restrictions on the media in Fiji.

Last week, the government's media monitoring arm announced that it would force Fiji One News to retract a broadcast, and apologise for airing a public political meeting where ailevu chief Ratu Timoci Vesikula criticised Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Trade Union Congress has accused the government of trying to find ways to throw trade unionists into prison, after the government came up with a new decree stating that independent candidates could no longer register for elections unless they handed in 1000 registered voters' names, signatures, addresses and occupation details along with their nominations.

Independent candidates who flout this decree could face jail or a fine.

The congress president, Daniel Urai, told RNZI that the regime could be gearing up to have trade unionists arrested for attending political meetings.

Urai said the unions would flout the decree.

"We have to fight the injustice. You cannot fight injustice by abiding with laws or decrees, whatever they put out. We'll have to fight them," Urai told RNZI.

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Pacific Media Watch

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