Fiji Media Decree Must be Opposed, Says IFJ

 

A new media decree proposed for Fiji

by the military regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama is nothing more than

reinforcement of the sweeping censorship that has been in force in Fiji since

“temporary” emergency regulations were imposed in April 2009, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said

today.

 

The IFJ has obtained a copy of the

draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which was only delivered to media

stakeholders in Fiji hours

before so-called public consultations on the decree began in Suva today. Stakeholders were reportedly not

permitted to allow copies to leave the location of the discussions.

 

The IFJ is alarmed that the draft

decree proposes to invest all power of interpretation over the meaning of fair,

balanced and quality journalism to officers and authorities appointed by the

Bainimarama regime.

 

“It is not surprising that Fiji’s regime

says it will drop its emergency regulations once the media decree is adopted,”

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

“The decree is clearly focused on

the regime retaining control and entrenching its highly oppressive

restrictions, not only on the media but on members of the public who might wish

to express dissenting views.”

 

The draft decree

allows for officers authorised by the Media Authority and Tribunal to enter news

rooms and media offices to seize any documentation, materials or equipment on

the basis of vaguely defined complaints, and even where no formal complaint has

been laid.

 

The same

powers are in force under the current emergency regulations, under which the regime

has installed censors in news rooms.

 

Under the

decree, media outlets may be fined up to $500,000 Fiji

dollars (about USD 260,000) and individual journalists up to $100,000 Fiji

dollars, and/or jailed for up to five years if they do not comply with the

decree’s dictates.

 

Offences

subject to such penalties include failure of print media to run bylines on

published articles.

 

The decree

also limits foreign ownership of existing and future private media outlets to

10 per cent.

 

“This

decree strictly limits the ability of Fiji’s media to regain its role as a

critical watchdog on the accountability of power-holders, and must be substantially

rewritten or withdrawn,” White said

 

The IFJ encourages

media stakeholders to jointly speak out against the draft decree, in the

interest of defending independent quality journalism in Fiji and the rights of all people in Fiji to express

diverse points of view without fear of retribution.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ represents over 600,000

journalists in 125 countries worldwide