7 Apr 2010

Fiji regime releases draft Media Decree

2:31 pm on 7 April 2010

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 discussing the draft at a meeting in Suva today.

Those taking part have been given two and a half hours to read the draft before the meeting.

A media law expert at New Zealand's Canterbury University, Associate Professor Ursula Cheer, says the draft decree doesn't mention freedom of expression but dwells on exerting control.

"This appears to be all about control, control of ownership, control of content and control of just anything connected with publishing in Fiji."

Associate Professor Ursula Cheer