The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes reports that Fiji’s interim government has said it will permit the Fiji Times and Fiji Television to participate in consultations on a government-devised Media Decree, after initially barring the two media outlets from the process.
The move, announced by interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during a press conference on March 30, follows the administration extending its emergency regulations by one month to the end of April.
The regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama is reported to have said it will lift the regulations once the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 is finalised.
The regulations, enforced almost a year ago on April 10, 2009 as a “temporary” measure, have imposed sweeping censorship in Fiji, with official censors and police placed in newsrooms.
The Fiji Times and Fiji Television, among other organisations, said they would appreciate seeing copies of the draft decree in order to inform their response.
“The IFJ remains concerned about the administration’s intentions regarding the role of the Media Decree in relation to independent media, in view of statements that the government would only repeal the emergency regulations after the Media Decree is finalised,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.
“The IFJ therefore strongly encourages the administration to ensure all relevant stakeholders are able to participate in consultation on the decree, without fear or favour, and that the environment for discussion allows for the airing of open and constructive feedback, whether positive or negative.
“A reasonable amount of time must be permitted for this important community process.”
In a statement on March 16, the IFJ called on the interim government to ensure all stakeholders are given the opportunity and adequate time to provide input on the decree. The public consultation had been scheduled to begin that day but was postponed as Fiji contended with a cyclone.
Latest reports are that interested parties must register to participate in the consultations on the decree by April 6, with the consultations to be held in different locations on April 7, 8 and 10.-Anubhuti Singh, Media Newsline
He said consultations would focus on issues like advertising and media ethics and they had opened the consultations to all the media outlets in the country.
“The draft Media Industry Development Decree is now ready and the government is expected to have consultations with the stakeholders next week, on April 7 it will be in Suva, on April 8 it will be in Labasa and in Lautoka on April 10.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the draft decree established a Media Industry Development Authority, “which is, to among other things, monitor compliance with the media codes of standard.
“This establishes an Independent Media Tribunal which is to hear complaints against media organisations and individuals.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the tribunal would have powers to hand down rulings and that the draft decree emphasises fair, accurate and responsible reporting.
He said it established a media code of standards including a Code of Ethics and Practice, General Code of Practice for Advertisements.
The decree will be provided to interested stakeholders on the day of consultations.