6944 SUVA: The Fiji Ministry of Information has denied any responsibility for the temporary closure of the popular Fijilive news website, saying the company operating the service took it offline.
The closure "was not due to any interference" from the ministry or police, said the Permanent Secretary for Information, Ms Sharon Smith-Johns.
She was also critical of an ABC News report that claimed the website had been "shut down by the government". Fijilive was back online today without explanation after being offline over the weekend.
“Once again we see journalists reporting without first obtaining the facts," she said in a media release today in reply to questions from local and international media about why the Fijilive.com, owned by Webmasters Ltd, had been offline.
“I would like to further clarify and put on record that no government agency, including the Fiji police, were responsible for the closure of the Fijilive website as reported by some media organisations, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website, without first clarifying it through official channels," Smith-Johns said.
The Permanent Secretary said Fijilive had clarified that the company itself had taken down the website, and confirmed that "neither my ministry or the police force had anything to do with it".
On Thursday, July 29, Webmasters lodged its registration with the Media Industry Development Authority of Fiji, the media statement said.
On Friday, July 30, the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced the names of some of the media organisations which had registered with the authority.
Fijilive's name was not on the list.
"[Fijilive] assumed wrongly that it had not been registered and they took down the website," Smith-Johns said.
She said Fijilive had "freely admitted" that it had taken down the Fijilive website.
The Permanent Secretary said that the Media Development Authority Decree was now in place and media organisations needed to comply with
Smith-Johns also clarified that the police had the right to question media organisations under the PER on any matters which breached the penal code or any other decrees, including the media decree.
“In this case, police officers had the right to question the news director of the Fijilive News, Richard Naidu, regarding a news item which concerned the police as the story was based on a rumour and was inaccurate.
“We urge media editors once again to exercise responsible reporting. We believe that the media has an important role to play in our country - and its role towards nation-building is critical and important." - Fiji Ministry of Information/ABC News/Pacific Media Watch
* See PMW items 6934, 6938