15 Sep 2006

Fiji information minister rejects criticism of controversial broadcasting bill

5:53 pm on 15 September 2006

Fiji's information minister has rejected criticism of the government's controversial Broadcasting Licensing Bill as baseless.

Isireli Leweniqila has told Radio Legend that the Bill has followed normal parliamentary procedures and is not being pushed through as claimed by media organisations.

Mr Leweniqila says the Bill is a government policy step with nothing personal in it.

He has also played down the concerns of he Fiji Media Council and other stakeholders that a political minister would have too much power to make political appointments to the Broadcasting Licensing Authority.

Mr Leweniqila says this is not correct and the government will prove its critics wrong.

The Broadcasting licensing Authority to be appointed by the minister would decide on the programme and advertising content of broadcasters.

It would also have the power to fine broadcasters up to 300-thousand US dollars and cancel their licenses if they are found to be breaching any guidelines.

Meanwhile, a Fiji TV report says the information ministry interfered in the work of the parliamentary committee which reviewed the Bill and heard public submissions.

The secretary to parliament, Mary Chapman, has confirmed receiving a complaint on the issue from a member of the committee whose report was tabled in parliament earlier this week.