The newspaper publisher News Limited could be forced to withdraw from Fiji after the military-led regime issued a draft decree effectively banning foreign ownership of media companies.
News Limited’s Fiji Times, which employs more than 170 people and a further 1000 indirectly, is facing closure under new rules that require media companies to be at least 90 per cent owned by Fiji citizens.
Already there is a ban in Fiji on “negative reporting”, media companies operate under strict military censorship, journalists have been interrogated and the Fiji Times has had two of its managing directors deported under the military rule imposed after Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a December 2006 coup.
In a statement yesterday, News Limited chief executive John Hartigan said News, also publisher of The Australian, was “very concerned” about the media decree “to retrospectively limit foreign ownership of media to 10 per cent . . . We have made representation to the Fijian authority to find a way to resolve the issues and are awaiting the outcome of those representations.”
Mr Hartigan warned that the decree “raised some important commercial issues for the Fiji Times that need very careful consideration”.
Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said the decree would establish a media code of standards in ethics and practice while emphasising “fair, accurate and responsible reporting”.
The decree would also establish a media industry development authority to monitor compliance with the code.-Geoff Elliott, The Australian