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Bloggers Unite to Defy Military Censors in Fiji


Fijians are increasingly turning to blogging to circumvent media censorship as the military government continues to impose restrictions on newspapers and broadcasters. Democracy activists in the troubled South Pacific nation are leading the push to get Internet bloggers to help fill the information vacuum.

Do bloggers threaten national security?


Fiji's military government says anonymous pro-democracy bloggers are a "threat to national security."

There have been attempts to limit access to Internet cafes as the armed forces extend their authority. News organizations have been ordered to publish only "positive" stories about the administration.

While the mainstream media faces reporting restrictions, online forums have sought to provide alternative information and comment about Fiji's political situation.

Internet plays vital role

Peter Waqavonovono from the Young People's Concerned Network, a group that promotes democracy in Fiji, says the Internet plays a vital role.

"It is unfortunate that I have to say this and that is blogs have actually become one of the main mediums of getting information out there, whether it's credible or whether it's not. It's just the fact that right now people are just desperate for information," he said. "So, obviously the blog - the Internet - has become a very, very much sought after mode of information."

It is estimated that less than 10 percent of Fijians use the Internet and most rely instead on the radio for news.

After announcing measures to censor the media, armed forces chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, said that free speech "causes trouble".

Future plans?

His troops seized power in a bloodless coup in 2006. Fiji's Court of Appeals ruled the take-over was illegal earlier this month. The country's president responded by tearing up the constitution and firing the judiciary before reinstating the military government and giving it even greater authority.

The military says it will return the country to democracy only when a "dishonest" political system has been reformed.

Commodore Bainimarama accuses the last elected government of being corrupt and of pursuing racist policies against Fiji's ethnic Indian minority.

The military strongman, an indigenous Fijian, has indicated that elections could be more than five years away.

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