Contempt proceedings have been brought by the government of Fiji against a non-governmental organisation for quoting from a Law Society Charity report on the country.
The Citizens Constitutional Forum, which supports community education and advocacy in relation to Fiji's Constitution, democracy, human rights and multiculturalism, cited passages from Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost, published earlier this year.
The report’s author, charity chair Nigel Dodds, called the action a ‘monstrous assault on free speech’ which demonstrated that the concerns expressed in the report ‘are ongoing’ and underlined ‘the need for international scrutiny’.
He added: ‘It makes a mockery of freedom of speech in Fiji and sends a clear signal to the international community that Fiji sees the rule of law and human rights as little more than an inconvenience.’
Dodds’ call for international scrutiny received a set back when the Fiji’s director of public prosecutions, New Zealander Christopher Pryde, ruled out the possibility of an international delegation including a Law Society representative visiting the country. Dodds’ own report was based on a lone covert visit, after an International Bar Association delegation was refused entry in 2009.
In May this year, then-president of the Law Society John Wotton wrote to Pryde, seeking to clarify an apparent offer to allow an official visit, based on comments made in media interview.
In his recent response, Pryde declined the Law Society’s offer to participate in an international delegation visit to Fiji to follow up on Dodds’ report. He said there was no monitoring blockade in place, but made it clear that a return visit by Dodds alone was the only offer in place.
Fiji’s government is currently engaged in a review of the country’s constitution, a process which has stalled over the issue of immunity from prosecution for members of the government and leaders of the 2006 coup that brought the current ‘interim’ government to power.
Fiji is currently suspended from the Commonwealth.