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Fiji Times Sedition Case Continues

Fiji Times Sedition Case Continues
Hank Arts and Fred Wesley at the Suva High Court
April 12
11:45 2018

Fiji Times Limited lawyer Wylie Clarke sought clarification from High Court judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe yesterday if the amended information against his client only included the alleged seditious letter or the entire Nai Lalakai newspaper.

Mr Clarke was referring to the charge of sedition against his client which read that, “being a company having its registered office at 177 Victoria Parade, Suva, and as the printer of Nai Lalakai newspaper allegedly printed the April 27, 2016 edition of the Nai Lalakai newspaper which contained an article which was a seditious publication in that it had a tendency to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.”

He said as it stood, the charge contained, “loose language.”

“As currently framed the charges are too ambiguous,” Mr Clarke said.

He said it would create uncertainty in the minds of the assessors during trial.

Mr Clarke said the charge should be simple and, “should be more like the original charge.” He suggested that all counsels should liaise to settle pre-trial issues before appearing on the next court date.

Defence lawyer Nicholas Barnes said he received the amended information prior to the court sitting and had a few issues with the charge.

He said in regards to the first count against the first accused who is the Nai Lalakai column writer Josaia Waqabaca, the agreed translation as mentioned in the amended information was never published in the newspaper.

He said the written piece was a letter to the editor which was published in the letters section in the iTaukei language.

Justice Rajasinghe agreed with Mr Barnes saying the English translation was only done by the court registry for the purpose of the trial.

Lawyer Devanesh Sharma, who appeared for the second accused Nai Lalakai Editor Anare Ravula, said he was grateful to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for amending the charges.

DPP lawyer Yogesh Prasad said they would remove the English translation from the amended information.

He also stated that Assistant DPP Lee Burney could not return to the country on Tuesday because of the bad weather but was expected back today.

Notice of motion

Counsels were given directions yesterday in relation to a notice of motion filed by Mr Burney which was pending before the court.

Justice Rajasinghe reminded parties that they had 10 days left until trial and they had to settle the motion, including all pre-trial matters by the last week of the month.

He suggested that they deal with the motion pending finalisation of issues pertaining to the amended information.

Mr Clarke said the motion was nothing, but a distraction as it contradicted the ruling of the court which was delivered on December 11, 2017. He said all the points raised in the motion were an attempt to subvert the court’s ruling.

Justice Rajasinghe responded saying he simply could not just throw out the motion, adding that he had to have a hearing.

Mr Clarke submitted that there should not be a hearing because it was an abuse of the court process.

He said it was an, “awful inconvenience and an unnecessary distraction” and that they were very unhappy.

Mr Barnes submitted that the issue of fairness came to play as they were days away from trial and now they had to divert their attention to deal with the motion.

He said pre-trial conference should be utilised to finalise witnesses and agreed documents and not to attack the court’s ruling.

Mr Sharma said they were now duty bound to respond to the motion.

“The law has been set and if you do not like it, appeal at the end of trial,” he said.

Defence counsels were ordered to file written submissions on or before April 18, 2018 while the State was ordered to file written submissions on or before April 20, 2018.

Justice Rajasinghe will deliver his ruling on the motion on April 24, 2018.

Plea for all accused persons including Fiji Times will be taken tomorrow.

Issues regarding the amended information is also expected to be finalised.

Justice Rajasinghe also told counsels that he wanted to hear their position on Section 66 sub-section 2 of the 2009 Crimes Decree.

The section talks about Seditious Intention and states;

-But an act, speech or publication is not seditious by reason only that it intends—

(a) to show that the Government of Fiji has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures; or

(b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or Constitution of Fiji as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects; or

(c) to persuade the inhabitants of Fiji to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Fiji as by law established; or

(d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters which are producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different classes of the population of Fiji.

Amended information

On the first count of sedition, between April 20 and 27 of 2016, Waqabaca is alleged to have done a seditious act, namely submitted an article written by him for publication in the Nai Lalakai newspaper, with a seditious intention to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

On the second count Ravula is charged with aiding and abetting sedition.

On or about April 27, 2016 Ravula is alleged to have aided and abetted Hank Arts to publish an article in the Nai Lalakai newspaper published on April 27, 2016 which was a seditious publication in that it had a tendency to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

The charge read that as the editor of the Nai Lalakai newspaper Ravula was allegedly under a contractual duty to assist Arts to publish the April 27, 2016 edition of Nai Lalakai newspaper by ensuring editorial standards were maintained, including a duty to prevent the publication of any seditious publication therein, and his failure to prevent the publication of the said seditious publication aided and abetted Arts to publish the said seditious publication.

On the third count of aiding and abetting sedition, it is alleged that on or about April 27, 2016, Fred Wesley aided and abetted Arts to publish an article in the Nai Lalakai newspaper published on April 27, 2016 which was a seditious publication in that it had a tendency to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

As the editor in chief of the Nai Lalakai newspaper Wesley was allegedly under a contractual duty to assist Arts to publish the April 27, 2016 edition of the Nai Lalakai newspaper by ensuring editorial standards were maintained, including a duty to prevent the publication of any seditious publication therein, and his failure to prevent the publication of the said seditious publication aided and abetted Arts to publish the said seditious publication.

On the fourth count Arts is charged with sedition. On April 27, 2016 as the publisher of the Nai Lalakai newspaper he allegedly published an article in the April 27, 2016 edition of the Nai Lalakai newspaper which was a seditious publication in that it had a tendency to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

For the fifth count of sedition, Fiji Times Limited being a company having its registered office at 177 Victoria Parade, Suva, and as the printer of the Nai Lalakai newspaper allegedly printed the April 27, 2016, edition of the Nai Lalakai newspaper which contained an article which was a seditious publication in that it had a tendency to promote ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

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