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Fiji under total military control: deported journalist

world Updated: Apr 14, 2009 12:39 IST
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Fiji is under total military control as coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama cracks down after a court ruled his position was illegal, a deported Australian journalist said on Tuesday.

"There is an incredible amount of intimidation going on there at the moment," veteran Australian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent Sean Dorney told reporters on arrival at Sydney airport.

The latest bout of political turmoil in the Pacific island nation began on Thursday when the Court of Appeal ruled that military chief Bainimarama had been in power illegally since a 2006 coup.

In response, the ageing and ailing Fijian President Josefa Iloilo sacked the judiciary, abrogated the constitution and then reappointed Bainimarama and his cabinet for five years.

"Under these regulations there's no judges so you can't contest anything, you can't take anything to court," Dorney said. "It's total military control at the moment.

"There's no disturbances in the street, there's no carry on, the military really has the country under the thumb."

While the military has effectively been in power since Bainimarama's coup, he took the title of interim prime minister and promised elections in 2009 -- which have now been put off until 2014.

Dorney was told he was being deported because "they were unhappy with my reporting."

Two journalists from New Zealand were also deported, while a Fiji Television journalist was taken in for questioning after film of Dorney's deportation had been transmitted overseas.

New Zealand television journalist Sia Aston and cameraman Matt Smith arrived back in Auckland on Monday.

Under a 30-day state of emergency, the media in Fiji are not allowed to carry stories critical of the government, with police and information ministry officers placed in newsrooms to vet stories.

Local media have been warned they could be shut down if they breach the regulations.