IFJ Questions Limited Consultation on Fiji Media Decree

 

The International

Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls on Fiji’s administration to reconsider

its process for holding public consultations on a controversial Media Decree,

and ensure all stakeholders are given the opportunity and adequate time to provide

input on the decree.

 

The IFJ is concerned that the

administration of coup leader Frank Bainimarama has said it would allow only one week for consultation on the decree before

implementing it at the end of March, while two leading news outlets have been

banned from participating in the process.

 

Fiji’s Permanent Secretary

for Information, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, announced on March 13 that

the decree was to be made publicly available on March 15, and any public

submissions were due in his office by March 24.

 

He also reiterated that Fiji Times

Ltd and Fiji Television Ltd were banned from participating in the

consultations.

 

However, the public consultation that

was expected to begin today has been postponed indefinitely as Fiji contends

with a cyclone. The decree does not appear to be available on the government’s

website.

 

The IFJ is advised that public

consultation procedures in most democratic countries around the world would be

expected to last six to eight weeks.

 

“Fiji’s administration cannot be taken

as serious about public consultation on a significant policy initiative when it

has stated it plans to allow such little time for public review and the receipt

of submissions, and is actively excluding two leading media outlets from the

process,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said.

 

Leweni said in a statement that the

decree was intended to address “issues” in Fiji’s media industry and improve

professionalism and “responsible reporting”.

 

The IFJ’s concerns about the Media

Decree are framed by intensifying repressions against independent media and

freedom of expression in Fiji throughout 2008 and 2009, with authorities

conducting police raids on media offices, deporting publishers and editors, calling for media houses to be shut down,

and banning some foreign journalists.

 

All-out censorship was imposed in April

2009 under emergency regulations.

 

“The Bainimarama administration must do all it can to ensure independent

stakeholders are fully involved and consulted on the decree, whether or not the

administration agrees with or likes their input,” White said. “Without this

engagement, the decree will likely be regarded as a tool for controlling media

rather than promoting media professionalism.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide