item of news from NZ - as Fiji newsmen and women are rather busy today.
Fiji regime releases draft Media Decree
Posted at 01:41 on 07 April, 2010 UTC
A draft Media Decree released in Fiji this morning is proposing a raft of provisions the current administration says is aimed at emphasising fair, accurate and responsible reporting. It proposes a Media Industry Development Authority to ensure media services maintain a high standard in all respects and monitor compliance.
It will also have among its functions a provision to ensure that nothing is included in any media service which is against public interest or order.
Content regulations would require all printed material to name the author and similar provisions would apply to broadcast material where possible.
The breaching of proposed content regulations could lead to organisations being fined up to half a million Fiji dollars or a fine of up to 100,000 Fiji dollars and up to five years in jail for publishers, editors or journalists.
There would also be a tribunal set up to hear complaints brought by the public, public officers or Cabinet Ministers.
Powers are introduced under the draft paper for the tribunal to be able to demand documents or information.
Media organisations would also have to be registered and a provision is also created, requiring 90 percent ownership by a Fiji citizen. That provision would affect the Fiji Times, which is owned by the Australian group, News Limited.
The draft decree also outlines restrictions on cross media ownership. A person or his or her associates would only be allowed a five-percent non-voting interest in any other media organisation.
Interested parties are currently discussing the draft at a meeting in Suva. Those taking part have been given two and a half hours to read the draft before the meeting.
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And from Australia:
Fiji plans to limit foreign media ownership
Campbell Cooney, Pacific correspondent
Last Updated: 24 minutes ago
Fiji's military backed regime says it wants to limit foreign ownership of its local media. The measure is proposed in a draft media industry decree, for which consultations are underway.
The decree will govern how the media operates, replacing 12 months of censorship with strict new laws.. The draft Decree puts a limit on foreign ownership of Fiji's media at just 10 per cent, which if adopted will affect the Fiji Times newspaper, which is owned by News Limited, and has been repeatedly attacked by the military backed regime for its criticism of its activties.
The draft also allows legislation for the formation of a media development authority and tribunal which will be authorised to enter media businesses at any time, seize any document, and enforce censorship of any story.
All media operations will have to register with the interim government, with online services forced to give details of protocols and service providers.
From Fiji Radio and comments by Stan Simpson. Words in bold are to point out controversial bits:
Mixed reactions to Fiji Media Decree
Wednesday, April 07, 2010 Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
The draft of one of the most significant set of laws to govern media operations in Fiji was released and discussed today, receiving mixed reactions from media organizations and civil society groups.
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum introduced the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 which sets out the establishment of a Media Industry Development Authority, A Media Tribunal, a Media Code of Ethics, penalties and fines for breach of the decree, and laws governing cross-media ownership and foreign media ownership in Fiji.
Sayed-Khaiyum says the decree will be introduced “as soon as possible” and that the Public Emergency Regulations will be lifted once it is in place.
He also confirmed that the media will be able to report comments from Unionists and Politicians who have been banned from speaking out since the enforcement of the PER, as long as the reports are accurate and balanced.
FBC News Director Stanley Simpson was at the Consultations today and filed this report:
“Among the major sticking points during today’s discussions was the make up and independence of the Media Development Authority, the imposition of fines for breaching certain provisions under the decree, and the ability of the media to appeal or seek redress from the Courts if the Media Tribunal ruled and imposed fines against them.Limits on foreign ownership of media organizations in Fiji also featured, with the proposed decree set to take out Australia’s News Ltd’s ownership of the Fiji Times.
Media organizations and civil society groups opposed the proposal in the decree that the Media Development Authority be led by a Director appointed by the Minister, pushing instead that it be governed by a board with representatives from across the community.
The media were also unanimous that the fines currently being proposed in the media decree were too draconian and could easily take most media organizations in Fiji out of business. Breaches of the proposed decree could incur fines of as much $100,000 or a maximum of $500,000 for certain offences. Media organizations requested that this be significantly reduced.
There was also agreement that the fines should be directed at the media organizations and not at individual journalists. The Media Tribunal which would hear and determine complaints made against media organizations also generated much discussion, particularly the fines it could impose and the lack of ability in the current draft for the media to appeal or seek redress against the Tribunal’s decisions.
Media organizations asked that they be given an avenue through the courts to appeal the Tribunal decisions should they choose to.
The Media Code of Ethics in the Decree was lifted word for word from the current code of ethics put in place by the Fiji Media Council but discussions ranged on how this could be legislated given differences in society on what is considered in good taste or decent.
The Fiji Times asked the government if they could provide written submissions and proposed changes to the foreign ownership section, a request which was denied outright in the morning. The new law states that foreigners can only own 10 per cent of a local media organization.
At the end of the session, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said they would take the suggestions and feedback on board, but launched an attack on the Fiji Times for not acting in Fiji’s interests.
Consultations will be held in Lautoka tomorrow but the Consultation in Labasa has been cancelled."
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
For a carefully worded response by the Citizen's Constitutional Forum, go to this website: then to the Media link and to Press Release. Rev Akuila Yabaki has laid out point by point the concerns of this organization.
Added later - April 13. After reading an article in today's Age about blogs and anonymity I was wondering if web logs are included in the media decree. Are they? Of course many are anonymous as people hide behind nick-names. I discovered that a list of so-called 'subversive' blogs has been sent to Fiji government departments even though some of those on the list, such as this one, are not provocative. Even the occasional comments can hardly be considered problematic as I delete anything offensive, or advertising, or in an unreadable language. I don't really care for anonymity but for some people I suppose it is a safety issue.