8 Feb 2012

Fiji media observer says new decree opaque and chilling

2:03 pm on 8 February 2012

A veteran journalism educator in the Pacific says the Fiji regime's new decree affecting the media could have a chilling effect on the run-up to promised elections.

The State Proceedings Amendment Decree provides that no media organisation can be held liable for publishing statements by interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama or his ministers.

The interim government says the new decree aims to facilitate frank and open discussion before elections.

But Dr Mark Hayes says the law appears bizarre and opaque and could have quite the opposite effect.

"They could be trying to flush out potential political opponents but of course the catch is the media can report what regime ministers are saying freely without any comeback but if a regime critic pops up it would appear that a regime minister could reach for their lawyer and sue them."

Independent Pacific media scholar Dr Mark Hayes.