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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Fiji Times Fined $168,564 For Printing Controversial Article
Editor and publisher fined, paper ordered to make apology

By Nanise Loanakadavu

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 20, 2013) – The Fiji Times Limited has been ordered to pay a fine of FJ$300,000 [US$168,564] and court costs of FJ$2,000 [US$1,123] within 28 days.

This after the High Court in Suva convicted the company of contempt of court.

In his judgment handed down this afternoon, Justice William Calanchini also convicted the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, of contempt and sentenced him to six months' imprisonment suspended for a period of two years.

He convicted the former publisher, Brian O'Flaherty, and ordered him to pay a fine of FJ$10,000 [US$5,618]. Both Mr. Wesley and Mr. O'Flaherty were also ordered to pay costs of FJ$2,000 each to the Attorney-General within 28 days.

Justice Calanchini further ordered The Fiji Times and Mr. Wesley to arrange for an apology directed to the judiciary of Fiji to be first drafted and submitted to the court for approval prior to being published in The Fiji Times within the next 28 days.

The convictions were entered for the re-publication in the sports pages of The Fiji Times on 7 November 2011 of an article originally published in the Sunday Star Times, a New Zealand newspaper.

The article contained a statement from Mr. Tai Nicholas, the general secretary of the Oceania Football Confederation, about the judiciary in Fiji.

Justice Calanchini had earlier found that this article scandalized the Fiji courts.

Justice Calanchini said an "aggravating factor" of the contempt was the publication by The Fiji Times of a story in June last year which conveyed "the impression that the judiciary was not independent from the government."

The Fiji Times Limited, Mr. Wesley and Mr. O'Flaherty, who were not at work on the day the article was included in the newspaper for publication, had all pleaded not guilty.

A fortnight ago, Justice Calanchini convicted Mr. Nicholas, who had pleaded guilty, and fined him FJ$15,000 [US$8,428] for making the original statement about the Fiji judiciary.

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