Pacific Media Watch

28 November 2012

FIJI: Times agrees to pay costs over 'scandalising' court case

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The Fiji Times and sister title Sunday Times. Image: FBC

Devendra Narayan

SUVA (Fiji Broadcasting Corporation News / Pacific Media Watch): The country’s oldest newspaper, The Fiji Times, has agreed to pay costs to the Attorney-General’s Office for a contempt of court article it published in its newspaper.

The Fiji Times Limited, chief editor Fred Wesley and former publisher Brian O’Flaherty were found guilty on one count of contempt of court.

The newspaper "scandalised the judiciary" by publishing an article in November last year which contained a comment allegedly made by Oceania Football Confederation secretary-general Tai Nicholas about Fiji’s judiciary.

The article was written by a New Zealand journalist and was published in a NZ newspaper Sunday Star-Times before being reprinted in The Fiji Times the next day.

"FIFA Proves Doc" was the title of the story published by the Fiji Times on the November 7 last year questioning Fiji’s judiciary and its independence.

Fiji Times lawyer John Apted told Justice William Calanchini that the chief editor was unaware of the story that was published and it was entirely up to the sports editor who due to time constraints and no show of some staff admitted he did not read the article.

Apted says on that day the editor Fred Wesley was not at work.

In his mitigation submission, Apted once again asked for forgiveness from the court on behalf of his client.

He also told the court that the Fiji Times had agreed to publish an apology on the front page of the newspaper.

He said the Fiji Times was a very good corporate citizen and was working for the communities and a good example was the publishing of the Nai Lalakai and Shanti Dutt vernacular despite making losses.

Apted said the Fiji Times was now providing training to its staff - even by the lawyers - and all of the stories for the day were being highlighted in the newsroom meetings.

The second article was published in June but by then the former publisher, O’Flaherty was out of the country.

Apted said the court could consider the second article as an aggravating factor.

He then said there was an apology from Wesley and Fiji Times Limited for the second article that was published.

He said theFiji Times had been convicted for contempt of court twice and it was appropriate to impose a sentence to deter such activities in future.

Acting Solicitor-General Sharvada Nand Sharma asked that publisher Hank Arts be given a three month suspended jail sentence due to his medical condition and a six month prison sentence for Fred Wesley, the current editor.

He added the Fiji Times should be liable for all the costs.

Justice Calanchini said the two parties should submit an indemnity cost or a party to party cost before he made his judgment.

Michael Field's Stuff website report on the contempt case:
Fiji regime wants editor jailed -

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