Pacific media freedom has been under siege for more than a decade, particularly since an attempted coup in Fiji in May 2000, when a television station was attacked and ransacked, a foreign journalist was shot and wounded and a local journalist ended up being imprisoned for treason. Since then various Pacific countries, notably Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu have faced various periods of media repression. Since the military coup in December 2006, Fiji has faced arguably its worst sustained pressure on the media since the original two Rabuka coups in 1987. The Bainimarama regime in June 2010 imposed a Media Industry Development Decree that enforced draconian curbs on journalists and restrictive controls on foreign ownership of the press. This consolidated systematic state censorship of news organisations that had been imposed in April 2009 with the Public Emergency Regulations that have been rolled over on a monthly basis ever since. Promised relaxation of state censorship after the imposition of the Decree never eventuated. This research report covers the period 1 July 2010-31 August 2011 and examines the trends in the Pacific region. In addition to Pacific Islands Forum member nations, the report covers the French Pacific territories and the former Indonesian colony of East Timor and current provinces known as West Papua.
Professor David Robie is convenor of the Pacific Media Watch media freedom project; Alex Perrottet is student contributing editor of the Pacific Media Watch project.