Brussels, April 17, 2009 (SIGNIS) - SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication expresses its profound concerns for the new laws in Fiji that prohibit local media from publishing stories that negatively depict the government led by the newly appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

This new direction, issued last Saturday, April 11, 2009, has immediately resulted in the deletion of certain news stories from local media together with the expulsion of foreign journalists critical of the government's annulment of the 1997 Constitution and the abrogation of the judiciary.

SIGNIS endorses the principle that the freedom of the media to publish and broadcast is the freedom, and right, of people to be informed.

Since 1987 Fiji has had four coups and a bloody military mutiny.

Fijian media have been told to refrain from airing or publishing news stories, broadcasts or articles that may be inciting to law and order. Under a new promulgation, the Public Emergency Regulations 2009, Section 16 (1) of the regulation states that if the "Permanent Secretary for Information has reason to believe that any broadcast or publication may give rise to disorder and thereby cause undue demands to be made upon the police or the armed forces, or may result in a breach of peace, or promote disaffection or public alarm, or undermine the Government or State of Fiji, he or she may, by order, prohibit such broadcast or publication."

In a letter to media in Fiji, the Information Secretary, Major Neumi Leweni, has requested all media to "immediately refrain from publishing and broadcasting any news item that is negative in nature, relating to the assumption of executive authority on 10th April 2009 by His Excellency the President."

SIGNIS believes that journalistic freedom includes the right to publish and broadcast news and information, without fear or favor, and the right to comment fairly and dutifully upon it. SIGNIS stands by the principle that freedom of the media in Fiji and elsewhere is important even more because of the obligation it entails towards the citizens of that country than because of the rights it gives to the media.