Fiji’s High Court in a landmark decision last month cleared the Fiji Times of sedition charges and declared its three newspaper executives free men.
The fourth accused, a letter writer to the newspaper’s Fijian language weekly, Nai Lalakai was also acquitted.
Although the office of Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions wasted no time in announcing it was appealing, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe’s 27-page judgement does offers some clarity on what constitutes sedition and what does not.
He had relied on a 1992 Fiji Court of Appeal case between the state v Mua, at which the presiding judge panels of Fiji Court of Appeal President, Mr Justice Michael Helsham, Sir Moti Tikaram, and Mr Justice Gordon Ward elaborated on what sedition is.
“The purpose of the offence is to prevent any unlawful attacks on the tranquillity of the State but it is not intended to prevent legitimate political comment. Deeply held political convictions frequently provoke strong emotions but there is authority to show that even strong or intemperate words or actions may not demonstrate a seditious intention if done with the purpose of expressing legitimate disagreement with the government of the day in terms of paragraphs (a)-(d),” Judge Rajasinghe quoted from the Fiji Court of Appeal judgement.
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