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By Tiana Haxton, RNZ journalist

Fiji’s Women and Children’s Minister Lynda Tabuya says Pacific island countries need to “strengthen our laws” on online harassment.

Tabuya spoke to RNZ Pacific on the sidelines of the Pacific Women in Power forum taking place in Auckland this week.

She said the issue that she was dealing with — which is allegations of a sex and drug scandal between her and former cabinet minister Aseri Radrodro — was currently with the police.

“[Police] are investigating it,” she said.

“And it just so happens that a person who was causing this harassment online lives in Sydney,” she said.

She said she was able to get the assistance of Australia’s online safety watchdog to issue the notice to the person to take down the content — images — because it is a crime in Australia.

“If you put up content that is or appears to be the person, so then the person [who published it] needs to take the content down otherwise they can face prosecution,” she said.

‘Grateful for swift action’
“That was the process I followed and I’m grateful to the Safety Commissioner of Australia for the swift action.”

However, she said the situation she found herself in was not exclusive to her.

“It’s me today, it could be someone else tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be a minister or public figure.

“But if you have women in Fiji or across the Pacific who are facing this, and they’re being attacked — especially for populations where there are more people outside of the country than in [the] country.

Tabuya said therefore there was a need for strong policies, not just in Fiji, but across the region.

“You get more attacks from people who live overseas. Women MPs need to reach out to those countries where those people are attacking them live because the laws are much stronger.

“But it’s also a lesson for us within to strengthen our laws so that we can stand up against online bullying.

“The world is unfair and being a woman in politics, we face a lot of unfairness and injustices. But I think it also makes us so much more determined to stand up and be heard,” she added.

Meanwhile, Tabuya is currently the subject of an inquiry by her political party following the sex and drug allegation, the outcome of which has yet to be released.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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