FIJI NEWS

2 TIMES WRONG

By FONUA TALEI A Suva High Court judge yesterday said The Fiji Times newspaper appears to have learnt little from its first conviction for contempt of court. Justice William Calanchini
21 Feb 2013 11:52

Fiji Times Limited general manager Hank Arts (left), Editor-in-Chief and publisher Fred Wesley, and lawyer Jon Apted (right) outside the Suva courthouse yesterday after the sentencing of the newspaper, Wesley, and the former publisher Brian O’Flaherty. Photo: NAVNEET NARAYAN

By FONUA TALEI

A Suva High Court judge yesterday said The Fiji Times newspaper appears to have learnt little from its first conviction for contempt of court.
Justice William Calanchini said the newspaper, while facing a second contempt charge, then also published further material. This was an aggravating factor of a grave nature.
“As a consequence the court is left with no choice but to impose a heavy fine,” Justice Calanchini said.
The Fiji Times Limited, its former publisher Brian O’Flaherty, and current Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley, were sentenced in the High Court after being found guilty of scandalising the court and convicted on a charge of contempt.
Justice Calanchini imposed a $300,000 fine on Fiji Times Limited, $10,000 fine on O’Flaherty, and sentenced Wesley to six months in prison, suspended for two years.
All had maintained a not guilty plea throughout the case but were found guilty on October 1 last year. The fines are to be paid to the High Court (Civil) Registry within 28 days from judgment. All three were also ordered to pay $2000 each in costs to the the Attorney-General’s Office.
Furthermore the Fiji Times and Wesley were ordered to arrange for an apology directed to the judiciary of Fiji. This was to be drafted and submitted to the Court for approval prior to being published in the Times within 28 days.
The case was in relation to an article published by the Fiji Times on Monday November 7, 2011 entitled “FIFA probes DOC” in which the court found Oceania Football Confederation Secretary Tai Nicholas made a scurrilous attack on Fiji’s judiciary.
Justice Calanchini said the Fiji Times and its management appeared to have learnt little from its first conviction in 2009 for the same type of contempt, where the newspaper was fined $100,000. He said the newspaper publishing company must accept the ultimate responsibility for the publication of the contempt, and it cannot hide behind its special position that has been acquired over its years of publishing in Fiji. +He said, it reflected poorly on O’Flaherty and Wesley that they find themselves before the court convicted of contempt when less than four years earlier their predecessors had found themselves in a similar position. He said they had failed to heed the warning from the earlier proceedings.
Justice Calanchini said the newspaper, under Wesley’s editorship and published by O’Flaherty, had reported the outcome of court proceedings in Fiji, presided over by the judiciary. He said this posed the question as to why they published the words if it were not to challenge the very existence of a judiciary duly appointed according to law.
He said they cannot rid themselves of any responsibility by simply saying they were not at work that day. Or that the material was published because junior staff or even senior staff did not follow the system.



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