Fijian military dictators target bloggers


Fiji

By Patrick O’Connor:

Fijian military junta targets bloggers

24 May 2007

The Fijian military junta has targeted anti-regime web logs (blogs), and threatened to arrest the people behind them.

On May 17, army commander Colonel Pita Driti announced that blogs “critical of the army and members of the government” would be shut down as they posed a “threat to national security”.

“There is still an active state of emergency and people must be aware that some freedoms need to be restrained, including freedom of expression,” Driti declared.

“When we catch up with these bloggers, we will take them to our military quarters and explain to them how their remarks constitute a threat to the country.”

This is an ominous warning, particularly given the regime’s record.

Since launching its coup last December, the military has detained dozens of prominent oppositionists, including former government members, activists in various non-government organisations, and others opposed to the trampling of democratic rights in Fiji.

Many have been assaulted and one person has allegedly been beaten to death while in military custody.

The regime’s attempted crackdown on independent blogs is another indication of the weakness of its grip on power. …

The most prominent blog, http://intelligentsiya.blogspot.com, released a statement on May 14: “While some other blogs (namely Resistfrankscoup) could be termed ‘racist’, Intelligentsiya will never condone racism or violence.

We therefore despise being put under the same label as other blogs that have called for violence and made racist comments.

Notwithstanding the racist and ‘call-to-arms’ comments on other blogs, we still passionately defend our right to raise our voices.”

Fiji is an impoverished country with a comparatively low Internet access rate, but the impact of the blogs has nevertheless been significant.

Young people in particular take advantage of relatively cheap access in Internet cafes in the main towns.

The military’s announced crackdown has only increased ordinary Fijians’ determination to gain access to the proscribed information.

One blogger, “Fijian Black”, told Global Voices Online: “Not only do our posts get read, they get emailed all over the world, to people who are interested in our country, they get printed out (I’m talking reams of printouts here) in totality for the consumption of the Fiji public who don’t have internet access, and now, they are getting widespread media coverage, in Fiji and regionally.”

Another blogger, “Discombobulated Bubu”, said: “The reaction of the average Fijian has been overwhelming—people that have access to computers download and print out stuff on the blogs.

This then gets sent out to the remote villages by bus, boat and fax (those who have it) and by the ‘coconut wireless’—people talking to each other.

The military has grossly misjudged this means of communication—hence I think their panic now to shut the ‘people’s voices’ up.”

See also here.

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