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Deportation of an Australian from Fiji.



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Media contact: Courtney Hoogen (Minister’s Office) 0488 244 901 Laura Kemp (Departmental) 02 6261 1555 www.dfat.gov.au

MEDIA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS THE HON STEPHEN SMITH, MP

FA065 1 May 2008

DEPORTATI ON OF AN AUSTRALI AN FROM FI JI

I am very disturbed by the report that Evan Hannah, an Australian citizen and publisher of The Fiji Times, has been taken from his house into detention and looks likely to be summarily deported from Fiji.

The Australian High Commission in Suva has sought urgent consular access to Mr Hannah on hearing that he had been detained.

The High Commission has advised that Mr Hannah is in the custody of Fijian Immigration officers.

The Australian High Commission will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Hannah while he remains in Fiji. Australian officials understand Mr Hannah has a wife and two children in Fiji. The Australian High Commission will provide appropriate assistance to them should it be necessary.

The Australian High Commission is also seeking urgently from the interim Fiji Government an explanation as to the detention and likely deportation of Mr Hannah.

Today's events follow the summary deportation of Russell Hunter, CEO of The Fiji Sun, in late February. Unless the interim Fiji Government can provide some satisfactory explanation it can only be seen as another blatant attack by the illegal Fiji Interim Government on the media in an attempt to muzzle freedom of speech.

It is extraordinary and very disappointing that the Fiji regime has acted in this way on the eve of Media Freedom Day.

This is yet another reprehensible act in a disturbing pattern of behaviour since the coup of December 2006 which has resulted in the severe erosion of fundamental human rights and the rule of law in Fiji.

Given the discussion at the Pacific Island Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Auckland in March, the Fiji Interim Government can be under no illusion that the region would consider Fiji’s continued attempts to muzzle the media as acceptable.

I call on the Fiji Interim Government to respect the civil liberties of all citizens and residents and hold elections by the first quarter of 2009 consistent with the constitution and laws of Fiji, and as per its commitment to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2 October 2007.