Editor, publisher face jail threat after apology

TWO Pacific newspaper executives face a possible jail term for contempt of court even after they published a front-page apology for printing a letter that criticised a High Court ruling.

The Fiji Times’ Australian publisher Rex Gardner and editor-in-chief Netani Rika will appear in a December 4 hearing after Fiji’s Attorney-General rejected a front page apology on the matter by the publication, which is owned by News Ltd and is a PANPA member.

Mr Gardner has confirmed details of the controversy with PANPA.

The Times published a letter on October 22 by someone claiming to be Vili Navukitu of Queensland, Australia, that criticised a High Court judgement – and the Justices involved – that found the 2006 bloodless coup lead by Frank Bainimarama was legal.

The October 5 apology, available here, was said to be “self-serving” with a “smart-alecky” headline by Fiji’s Solicitor-General, Christopher Pryde, The Times reported.

The Times had failed to provide adequate details on the author, Mr Pryde told Justice Thomas Hickie at a hearing on Monday.

Mr Pryde stated he will issue a submission calling for imprisonment for Mr Gardner and Mr Rika and a large fine for the newspaper to the High Court in the next fortnight.

Earlier this year, The Fiji Government deported the Fiji Times’ then general manager, Mr Evan Hannah. Mr Rika in September addressed the PANPA08 conference on the topic of freedom of the press and shared with his audience to pressures newspapers continue to endure in Fiji.

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