6 October 1997


Senate moves against "The Fiji Times"

Incident details


(PINA/IFEX) - The privileges committee of Fiji's Senate was due
to begin meeting on 6 October 1997 to decide whether "The Fiji
Times" newspaper breached parliamentary privilege.

**For background to previous harassment of the newspaper, see
IFEX alerts dated 27 February 1997, 6 December and 29 November

On 3 October, the Senate decided to refer "The Fiji Times" to the
privileges committee over reports and an editorial in the
newspaper saying that the Senate sitting on 29 September lasted
not more than twenty minutes. "The Fiji Times" editorial,
headlined "Practise What You Preach", questioned the cost to
taxpayers of the twenty-minute sitting and said it was hard to
take seriously calls by senators for others to cut costs and
improve efficiency.

Senators responded by saying they also met "informally"
afterwards. Some attacked "The Fiji Times", which is part of
Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, as being "foreign" owned.

The Senate decided its privileges committee should report back at
the Senate's next sitting, in December.

Fiji's Parliament is made up of an elected House of
Representatives and an appointed Senate. The privileges committee
is made up of senators.

Under Fiji's Parliamentary Privileges Act, the privileges
committee could recommend that the Senate jail for up to two
years those found to have breached parliamentary privilege.

"The Fiji Times" already faces action from the House of
Representatives. The House of Representatives privileges
committee, on 6 December 1996, ruled that a prima facie case of
breach of parliamentary privilege had been established against
"The Fiji Times". This followed the paper's publication of leaked
details of closed-door meetings of parliamentary sub-committees
reviewing the country's constitution. Until now, no further
action has been taken (see IFEX alerts).

PINA has expressed concern over such moves against the Fiji news
media for providing the public information on matters of public


Pacific Islands News Association
Level 2, 46 Gordon Street, Damodar Centre
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Fiji Islands
pina (@) connect.com.fj
Fax:+679 3317055
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