When Reporters Face Threats From the Authorities: Samison Pareti, Journalist

When Reporters Face Threats From the Authorities: Samison Pareti, Journalist



In February in 2018, I got arrested by the Fiji police together with one of my journalists. It was to do with the story that the magazine had published and it was posted on our website about a certain judge who has been told to go home but his his contract revoked. So the police and the government were not pleased about the story. They said it was wrong and they assumed that it was a deliberate action on our part to so-called destabilize members of the public of Fiji. So it was on a Sunday. We got hauled into the police station and we were questioned for about five hours in total. And also included leading the detectives through our office, where they raided the office. They looked through all the rooms and the materials in the office and also they confiscated both mine and the reporters' laptops and mobile phones. Well, it was unexpected. We were initially…um panicked when when we got the call. But after a while we got very quick support from particularly a leading lawyer in a Fiji law firm. They offered after I contacted them – the same time police had contacted us. They were at the police station and they came with two of their senior lawyers. So one was with me and the other was with my journalist because we were interviewed separately. So they were with us all throughout the interrogation, during the raid as well, and the confiscation of the equipment. So we were supported and then the rest of the network of journalists in Fiji caught wind of the detention, the arrest, and they, they posted up on social media, both on Facebook and PITA. And I also learnt later that the local media association president pulled up the Commissioner of Police to check on the status of myself and my journalist. After I got the call and I was trying to process it, it occurred to me that I've been a journalist for over 30 years in Fiji and I've lived through and covered through three, four coups, military coups in the country, and that was the first time ever for me to be called up to basically be detained. And, and I was not prepared for it. So now I'm extra careful of where I go now or what time I finish at work. Usually I try not to work too late at the office, working alone at the office at night. And because we also discovered three days after our arrest that there was actually a bug planted into our internet router. And we got that because we asked a friend who's an IT expert to do an audit very quickly. So we have to change our internet service provider as well, as the result of that. So it just teaches me that as a journalist, you just need to want to be very sure of your sources and, second, yeah, to take that extra care of how you report your stories. And always as a backup, to always have legal support. Well, it initiated some discussions among the Fiji media association, which we remember, of how we need to offer a lot more support to journalists who are in distress like what we went through. And particularly to help independent and very small media organizations, like our magazine. I mean the biggest daily newspaper in Fiji had just gone through a lengthy…took about two or three years of court…court trial because they were charged with sedition. But they were able to afford that; although it cost them about three million dollars. We don't have that kind of money. So there was this discussion – maybe we should, we should all fundraise for a pool of funds that will be managed by the media association that can then assist journalists who are in distress, who need legal support, that can support them when, when they're actually detained or called up by the authorities.

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