28 Jun 2010

Fiji media decree limits foreign ownership

9:08 pm on 28 June 2010

An official decree imposed on Fiji's media came into effect from Monday. Journalists who defy it could be jailed and its residency requirements mean foreign ownership will be minimal.

Fiji's interim regime says the purpose of the decree is to ensure balanced reporting.

The interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, says the final order has been made following consultation in April.

Defying the decree will now result in fines of up to US$500 and jail terms of up to two years for a journalist, or fines of up to US$50,000 for a media organisation.

In his statement, Mr Sayed Khaiyum says the residency requirement for ownership of media organisations has been relaxed.

However, the regime says at least 90% of a company's beneficial shareholders must be Fiji citizens who have lived in the country for three out of the seven years leading up to registration, and thereafter residing in Fiji for at least six out of every 12 months.

The Australian-owned Fiji Times, the country's biggest newspaper, is singled out in the statement as the only organisation which needs to comply with the new ownership regulations.

The decree gives the paper's owners three months to meet the new requirements.