As expected the interim government is proposing a Media Industry Development Authority, saying it's needed to ensure high standards of performance and to ensure that material which is against public interest or order are not broadcast or publicised.
All material must also carry a byline with news organisations facing a fine of up to half a million Fiji dollars or a fine of up to $100,000 Fijian dollars if the code is breached.
The decree also paves the way for publishers, editors and journalists to be jailed for up to five years for breaches.
As predicted, a tribunal would be established to hear compalints from the public, public officers or Cabinet Ministers.
Media organisations would need to be registered and require 90 per cent ownership by a Fijian citizen. Cross media ownership will also be monitored with a five per cent non-voting interest only, allowed in any other media organisation.
The Draft Media Decree says the Media Industry Development Authority will:
ensure that nothing is included in the content of any media service which is against public interest or order , or national interest, or which offends against good taste or deceny and creates communal discord.
This is very broad so it will be interesting to see what kind of stories come under this criteria. Censors are already stopping the publication of stories which make the interim government look bad; eg water and power cuts and bad road conditions leading to pot holes.
This clause really means any stories which the interim regime doesn't like because it exposes them or shows that they're not doing a good job, is not in their interest and offends them as it creates communal discord.
No proceedings, civil or criminal, shall lie against the Authority for anything it may do or fail to do in the course of the exercise or intended exercise of its functions, unless it is shown that it did not act in good faith or without reasonable care.
So basically what the Authority rules on a journalist or media organisation is Gospel and it cannot be sued. Lawyers know that it is hard to prove that an organisation or person did not act in good faith.
Every media organisation that provides or intends to provide media services in Fiji must be registered...
A media organisation is registered when the proprietor deposits with the Authority an affidavit or affidavits duly sworn and signed by the proprietor.
In all civil or criminal proccedings relating to any media organisation, an affidavit deposited under section 31 is conclusive evidence against every person signing it of the truth of its contents.
This means a media organisation will have to swear that it will follow by the rules and if it doesn't the Authority will be able to use the affidavit against them in a court.
In every media organisation - up to 10% of the beneficial ownership of any share or shares in a company or any interest ... may be owned by foreign persons but at least 90% ... must be owned by citizens of Fiji permanently residing in Fiji
A person who does not fall within the class ...respectively must resign or divest themselves of any directorship or ownership interest within three months from the commencement of this Decree
It will be interesting to see what will happen to the Fiji Times. Who will buy the shares, local businessman or the Government?
Read the full Draft Media Decree