An Australian newspaper publisher has been deported by the interim government of Fiji for allegedly breaching the conditions of his work visa.
Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter, who arrived in Sydney yesterday afternoon, had been expelled from the country because he “...was conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, security and stability of the sovereign state of the Fiji Islands," according to a statement from the office of Commodore Bainimarama.
The Australian government has described the move as an attempt by the military government to “muzzle free speech”.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says the deportation of an Australian journalist working in Fiji is a move by the country's interim Government to muzzle free speech.
According to a Radio Australia report, Mr Hunter, 59, was removed from his Suva residence by Fijian immigration officials and soldiers. He claimed on arrival in Australia that his deportation had occurred because of articles he had written articles claiming former prime minister Mahendra Chaudry had evaded tax. Mr Chaudry, now finance minister, has denied the allegations.
Russell Hunter, 59, was taken from his Suva home by Fijian soldiers and immigration officials.
The Australian government has said the act was "totally unacceptable" and visiting New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark added the deportation could threaten future foreign aid to Fiji.
"It's a worrying development because we would like to be helping Fiji towards elections at the end of March next year and to clamp down on freedom of speech is a movement away, not a movement towards, democracy," Miss Clark said.
Mr Hunter has said he fears for the safety of his family, who remain in Fiji though are due to join him. "It must have been a very harrowing 15 or 16 hours for them," he said to reporters at Sydney Airport.