The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum is urging the interim government to urgently reconsider
parts of the Media Industry Development Decree in order to protect
freedom of opinion and expression in Fiji.
Its chief executive, Rev. Akuila Yabaki says the Draft Media Industry Development Decree effectively replaces the restrictions under the Public Emergency Regulations and allows strict
media censorship to continue in Fiji.
"PER and censorship must be lifted so that the citizens of Fiji can enjoy the
right to receive and impart information and diverse opinions.”
After attending the consultation on Wednesday CCF is making the following submissions
Section 4(1) – If there is going to be a Media Authority, there should
be guidelines or criteria on who the minister should select for the
Authority. It should include the appointment of credible and experienced
people from the media industry.
Sections 6(2) and 9 be struck out to ensure the independence of the
role the Media Authority.
Sections 7(c), (d) and (e), s21, and 77(1) be struck out. Terms such as
“national interest”, “offends good taste or decency” are vague and
subjective and are not clearly defined.
These restrictions violate the principles of the Charter
(Recommendation ii at p156 of the SNE Report:- “free speech and free
media are basic and inviolable principles… the media must not be subject
to censorship”); and
Art 19 UDHR (Freedom of opinion and expression).
The Penalties provided are not reasonable and proportionate to the
offence. A journalist should not be liable for imprisonment for up to 5
years for accurate reporting or for exercising freedom of opinion or
expression. The media organisation should be solely responsible for the
actions of its employees. All penalty provisions should be altered
It should be a defence to any offences relating to content regulation
to prove that a publication was made honestly and in good faith.
Otherwise the media would not be able to accurately report on violent
crimes because they might offend ‘good taste or decency’ – surely this
is not intended and would be contrary to the public interest.
Sections 16(1), 16(2) and 84 collectively prohibit accountability of
the Authority, Tribunal and the Minister making decisions under this
Decree. This violates the right to an effective remedy and the right to
a fair and public hearing before an independent tribunal. These sections
should be removed so that people have a clear right to judicial review.
The broad powers given to the Media Authority under Part 5 are
concerning. Section 26 gives powers to officers or agents of the Media
Authority to enter, search, seize and use such force as considered
necessary. The right to life, liberty and security of person should be
clearly protected under this section to prevent officers using excessive
or unreasonable force. These powers are unnecessary and the Police
should be the relevant authority to carry out these powers.
Section 48(3) allows the Minister to interfere with the functions and
powers of the Tribunal. This section should be struck out to ensure the
independence of the Media Tribunal.
Section 77 should be removed. This mirrors provisions under PER which
allow government censors in newsrooms and duplicates existing powers
under the Public Order Act and the Crimes Decree. The power to shut down
all activities and operations for breaching of this section is excessive
State owned media organisations should be required to operate under the
same rules and regulations as private media organisations for reporting
accurately and responsibly. Applying different standards based on
ownership is unjust and undermines equality before the law. The
exemption for state owned media organisations should be removed.
In February 2010, the UN Human Rights Council strongly recommended the
Fiji Interim Government lift PER and media censorship. The proposed
decree does not ease media restrictions.
“In order to meet its human rights obligations, the interim government
must address the concerns raised by the civil society, the media
industry and the international community about the independence of the
media industry and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and
expression”, says Yabaki.
CCF says it would welcome open and inclusive dialogue and discussion on the
importance of freedom of expression and opinion before this Decree is