Fiji’s military regime has been accused of censoring accounts of the deaths of two foreign men so as not to frighten Australian and New Zealand tourists.
The Coup Four and a Half blog site cites media sources in Suva claiming they had been warned not to report details of the death of Tony Robert Groom, originally from Greymouth, and the apparent drowning of Don Nicholas, an American executive.
Mr Groom, 55, was brutally beaten in a “rough” part of Nadi as he walked home from a night out on July 8. He did not report the attack but collapsed suddenly on July 16 and died five days later. It is understood his partner went to police after he died. While a police investigation is under way, no suspects have been named.
Mr Nicholas, chief executive of an anti-ageing medical institute, disappeared while surfing at Natadola, south of Nadi.
Neither deaths have been widely reported in the Fijian press. However, a third death, the murder of a Fijian man, has been covered extensively.
The anti-government blog site reported that journalists were told “to downplay both incidents for fear of the repercussions on the country’s tourism industry.”
“Imagine what would happen if Aussies and Kiwis knew about one missing surfer and two murders in Nadi in the space of 10 days?” the site quoted its source as saying.
Mr Groom’s family and friends travelled to Fiji for his funeral, held on Monday.
Mr Groom had lived in Fiji on and off for about eight years, but moved there permanently 10 months ago. His partner Priya Zaena spoke of Mr Groom’s death on her own Facebook page.
Those who knew him were shocked to hear of his death.
Anthony Bailey posted a moving tribute to Mr Groom on a memorial website.
“I am sincerely sorry for the loss of Tony. Tony was a kind loyal man and a friend to a lot of people, he loved a drink, chat, and loved to share a joke always with a dry sense of humour but always smiling.
“We know that this is devastating for everyone especially his family and all the friends he touched and helped out in his life. Life is very unfair, but we are sure Tony will live on in each of us and will be in our thoughts for always.
“Tony had done a lot to be proud of over the 55 years and also helped out a lot of people in Christchurch and Fiji and will be deeply missed by everyone.”
His brother Philip told the Greymouth Star Mr Groom had enjoyed life in Nadi.
A Fiji Government spokeswoman, Sharon Smith-Jones, said claims the deaths had been censored were untrue, adding that she believed the two incidents had been well covered by local media.
“I can assure you that none of these reports have been censored,” she said. “If media outlets are only reporting on basic facts then it’s of their own doing.”
She said the blog site was not a credible source of information as it was “well known for fabricating stories to discredit the Government and with scant detail to the truth”.