Three staff members of Fijian-based magazine Island Business had phones and laptops confiscated following allegations of the media outlet printing a false story. The editor, Samisoni Pareti told Kawekōrero the police also acted on a search warrant for the magazines' offices after the police Commissioner ordered the investigation.
"Usually when there's a story that the authorities have taken offence to, usually they call up the Editor and they say 'your story is wrong, take it down," says Pareti.
However, no one ordered Island Business to take the article down. Instead, Pareti, another editor and the journalist who wrote the alleged false story underwent three rounds of questioning by the police who, according to Pareti, were only interested in finding out the source of the story.
"In one of the interviews, they had printed out a print out of our telephone calls from our landline as well as our mobile telephone calls from the office, so obviously they were just interested in finding out who was the source of the story. "
The story written by Island Business was about a workers' dispute at Nadi Airport that included a tip-off that Magistrate Andrew See had his contract terminated, or not to be extended three weeks after he ruled in favour of the employees. The next day, another Fijian media outlet printed a front-page story saying Island Business is a fake news agency. Pareti says while the police acted professionally towards him and his fellow employees, he doesn't believe they were treated fairly.
"That was an over-reaction on the part of the authorities and basically an intimidation to try and warn journalists that we have to be very careful about the kind of stories that we publish."