Saturday, April 10, 2010
Chaudry's millions classic example of why regime wants media decree
Now, in Fiji, the Bainimarama government, led by its Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has brought out the draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 which provides for the establishment of a Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) to “encourage, promote and facilitate” news media organisations and services at a “high standard” and a statutory Media Tribunal to judge complaints against media.
Like those poor and abused Afghan women, we are told that the Media Decree is needed to protect ‘Mother Fiji’ from the Fiji media, which is corrupting the moral fibre of the nation. While Bainimarama wants the media to be loyal to Fiji (to mouth and laud his actions), his chief law-maker Sayed-Khaiyum said the decree would establish a media code of standards in ethics and practice while emphasising “fair, accurate and responsible reporting”. Among many sinister recommendations, but one already in practice, is the demand in the draft Media Decree that all news reports publish a “byline” identifying the author.
And here we come to ‘Chaudhry’s Secret Millions’ which carried Victor Lal's by-line for nearly 14 months in the Fiji SUN (2007-2008) but a story which the interim regime of Bainimarama chose to ignore or investigative. Instead, it went on to religiously defend its Finance Minister until the Fiji Times named Chaudhry as the Minister.
The next day LaI rovided concrete evidence to back up his investigative story, and indirectly saved the Fiji Times from Chaudhry’s billion dollar libel writ against that newspaper. This particular story is a classic example of how we will never, if the vindictive Media Decree is made into law, be able to read a similar expose in the Fiji media. It will be the death of investigative journalism, which is already non-existent under present media censorship.
In other words, Chaudhry would have been one of the first, if not greatest beneficiaries, of the media decree if it had been in existence when the Fiji Sun first began running the story about a Government Minister and Tax Matters. He would have simply lodged a complaint against the Fiji Sun. For after all, Bainimarama had refused to dismiss him as Finance Minister, claiming the media had a hidden agenda against his interim government, and against Chaudhry.
And Lal would have been jailed, along with the publisher Russell Hunter, and the Fiji Sun fined thousands of dollars under this Media Decree- for disclosing Chaudhry's millions in a secret Australian bank account.