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Drop Fiji Facebook case

Press Release – Pacific Freedom Forum

Fijis prime minister and the attorney general should drop an old defamation complaint against Facebook comments made by a opposition leader, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.Fiji’s prime minister and the attorney general should drop an old defamation complaint against Facebook comments made by a opposition leader, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“Reviving the complaint eight to nine months after the comment makes a mockery of due process,” says PFF Chair Monica Miller.

“From their timing, plaintiffs seem intent on ensuring the post title of dirty politics is alarmingly correct,” says Miller, head of the regional media group, monitoring threats against freedoms of speech guaranteed under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Served only last week, the defamation case has prompted PFF to call on Fiji prime minister Voreqe Frank Bainimarama and his attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to withdraw their claims against Fiji Labour parliamentary leader, Aman Ravindra Singh.

“Too often funded in Pacific nations with public money against media organisations, defamation cases are most damaging when applied during critical times such as emergencies and elections,” says Miller.

‘Sedition vs defamation’

PFF welcomes the Fiji government move away from unsuccessful sedition claims but says defamation cases are little better.

Instead of legal action, PFF says the Fiji government should try the complaints process at Facebook, or the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority.

Politicians from all sides should also avoid unproven or unfair language, says PFF, such as the opposition accusing government of “terrorism.”

‘Goes with the job’

PFF co-Chair Bernadette Carreon says there is nothing wrong with expressing strong opinion in public.

But she says elected representatives have a higher public duty to always back opinion with facts, not emotion.

“Political disagreement is important in a free society,” says Carreon, observing from Palau.

“Politicians being criticised for behaviour in office goes with the job, just like journalists”.

‘Avoid misinformation’

From the Solomon Islands, PFF co-chair Robert Iroga agrees political leaders “need to avoid misinformation that results from being loose with the facts. “

Pointing to article 19, which guarantees rights of all people to freely express ideas and thoughts through any medium, Iroga says that “defamation claims by governments against anyone with a dissenting point of view is why countries are doing away with archaic libel laws.

“Fiji leaders may want to consider how this court action reflects perceptions of an extremely thin skin, on issues that should have been solved months ago – as in this case – with a few emails to Facebook.”

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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