Police failing to take action against a prisoner that assaulted a Fiji journalist should face immediate suspension, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.
“Once again police are failing to uphold the law,” says PFF Chair Monica Miller.
“Refusing to answer a complaint from a journalist, hit in the stomach right in front of them, outside the country’s main courts, is a serious dereliction of duty.”
Filming a man sentenced on a corruption case, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation journalist Praneeta Prakash was struck in the stomach with a stone thrown by a remand prisoner.
The prisoner was under police escort at the time.
They refused to take action even as the prisoner swore and verbally abused Prakash.
PFF welcomed quick condemnation from the Fiji Media Assocation over the attack, and the failure by police to take immediate action.
“All too often, media fail to raise any protest when a colleague is threatened or assaulted”, says Miller.
“Quick responses from FMA puts pressure on FBC to follow up and insist on official action against the prisoner, and the officers who failed to do their duty.”
PFF supports a statement from Fijian Media Association general secretary Stanley Simpson that reporters cover court cases to inform the public and ensure justice is served.
Simpson said that journalists “need to be left to do their work because in the end it benefits everyone.”
He referred to incidents where a Fiji TV reporter was manhandled, and a Fiji Sun reporter also got attacked attacked recently.
“Now we see the terrible incident of a stone being thrown at a journalist”, said Simpson.
“In these public spaces, and especially in the public interest, the journalist has every right to be there to take footage.”
PFF welcomed a promise from Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro that a thorough investigation would be carried out.
Naisoro said that they “have had some incidents where members of the public have attacked journalists again. We would request them to respect the rights of the journalist. They are simply doing their jobs, they’re not breaking any law.”
PFF says that Police leadership needs to send a strong message to its officers that they need to take action when they see crime - and punish those that don’t. Says Miller, “We’re calling on Fiji police to follow normal procedure in this case and suspend any officer under investigation.”
Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director Ashwin Raj was quoted as saying that it was “deeply concerning” that journalists are exposed to such incidents, and calling for a safe environment where media are able to discharge their duties.
Assaults against news media in Fiji join similar incidents in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and, most seriously, in West Papua.
From a regional perspective on journalism safety, Miller noted that Indonesia was this week hosting police chiefs from Melanesian states.
“In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day being hosted in Indonesia this May, there should be much greater effort among police chiefs to uphold safety for members of the press.”
South Seas Broadcasting
President Media Council PNG
Papua New Guinea
Bernadette H. Carreon
Pacific Council of Churches
The Pacific Freedom Forum is a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media. We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.