Fiji media censored over Kiwi's murder

02:06, Jul 26 2011
Former Greymouth businessman Tony Groom.
MURDERED: Former Greymouth businessman Tony Groom who was murdered in Fiji.

Fiji's military regime is heavily censoring media reports on the murder of New Zealand businessman Tony Groom in Nadi, media sources in Suva say.

Media have also been restricted on reporting on missing American businessman Don Nicholas who disappeared last week while surfing near Nadi.

No reason has been given to editors for the tight censoring but those involved believe the military regime is trying to control any news that could impact on the tourist trade.

Ministry of Information censors operate in all Fiji newsrooms and nothing can be broadcast or published before they clear it.

Their behaviour on certain stories is often inconsistent between publications, but media sources say the censors on all publications have allowed only basic coverage of the deaths of foreigners.

Groom, 55, a former Greymouth hotelier, was operating a charter boat operation at the tourist marina in Denarau, near Nadi, when he was beaten up on July 8. He collapsed eight days later and died last Friday.

His funeral was held yesterday in Nadi.

While police say they are investigating, no arrests have been made and there are no suspects.

Fiji media have been allowed to give more extensive coverage of the murder of a local hotel manager, Tevita Tabua, 51, who was savagely beaten near Nadi.

Three suspects are being questioned.

Meanwhile Fiji authorities have ended a search for an American CEO, Don Nicholas, who disappeared a week ago while learning to surf at the Intercontinental Hotel at Natadola, south of Nadi. The area was being pounded at the time by high swells which were also hitting New Zealand.

The search was called off over the weekend with no sign of the body.

Although an extensive US funded search was heavily reported in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Nicholas was from, it was virtually uncovered in Fiji.

Nicholas' girlfriend Litsa Kapantais, who is pregnant, told Charlotte media she was opposed to the way Fiji gave up on looking for the man.

His sister, Lisa Ross, has been in Fiji for the last several days but is being stonewalled by the Intercontinental Hotel.

"She needs the backup and the support from the hotel. She needs to have access to the boats, she needs to have access to the dive teams," Kapantais said.

She said she believes Nicholas is still alive but may desperately need help. She said Nicholas either drifted or swam to another island after strong waves knocked him off his surfboard.

"I don't think that they looked enough. I don't think that they searched enough, the nearby islands enough. He could have very, very easily found something to capture onto in the ocean and be on another island somewhere," she said.

Fiji's military regime Voreqe Bainimarama last week imposed a ''Surf Decree'' prohibiting private use of surf beaches.
Fiji has been advertising itself as a major surf destination.

One of Fiji's anti-regime blogs, Coup Four Point Five, claims the regime is controlling the news over Don Nicholas and Don ''for fear of spooking tourists''.

Bainimarama seized power in a military coup in 2006.

He purported to abrogate the constitution in 2009 after a court decision found his regime illegal. He imposed a state of emergency then, which included extensive censorship and media control.

The state of emergency continues, although Bainimarama has promised elections in 2014.