Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemns the new media decree imposed by the
military regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama in Fiji as erasing the right of journalists
to report freely and fairly.
The Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which the administration
announced yesterday had been gazetted on June 25, permanently installs the
sweeping censorship that has been in force in Fiji since “temporary” emergency
regulations were imposed in April 2009.
The decree is little changed from a
draft that met with international condemnation when it was announced in April.
“The Bainimarama regime claims it
has revised many elements of its draft decree after a sham public consultation.
But the decree now made law erases the rights of journalists’ and the media to
report in the public interest,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan
“Fiji’s power-holders need to step
back from this coercive and ultimately destructive law, and initiate moves to a
cooperative independent regulatory system that is supported by local media and
recognised by the international community.”
The law provides for two government-appointed
bodies. A Media Tribunal will comprise one member appointed by the President. A
Media Industry Development Authority will have six members appointed by the
Minister for Information.
Under the law, the regime and its
authorities will decide what is fair, balanced and quality journalism. They
will “ensure that nothing is included in the content of any media service which
is against public interest or order, or national interest, or which offends
against good taste or decency and creates communal discord”.
The IFJ fears for journalists and
media organisations, which can be fined and jailed if the tribunal rules that news
reports breach the regime’s media codes, including its Media Code of Ethics and
Media organisations face fines of
dollars (about USD 50,600), publishers or editors
$25,000 (about USD 12,600) and journalists or other employees of media
organisations $1000 (about USD 500).
The tribunal may also order
compensation of up to $100,000 Fiji
dollars (about USD 50,600) be paid by media organisations to “any person
aggrieved or adversely affected” by media reports.
The tribunal can order media
organisations and their employees to disclose sources. If they do not, they can
be fined $10,000 (about USD 5060) or jailed for up to two years, or both.
The law retrospectively requires
that all media organisations be registered with the authority and 90 per cent
owned by citizens of Fiji.
This action clearly targets the Fiji Times, which is owned by News Ltd.The
paper, which has a staff of about 200, is the only local media outlet to try to
maintain critical independence despite attacks, threats, intimidation and more
than a year of strict censorship.
The right of appeal against tribunal
decisions is only available where a penalty or compensation payment of $50,000 Fiji dollars (about
USD 25,300) has been ordered.
“Journalists and other media workers
could lose their jobs as a result, but it is the people of Fiji who will suffer the most from
the blackout on independent critical voices,” White said.
information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific
on +612 9333 0919
represents more than 600,000 journalists in 125 countries