Amnesty International says the new media decree will further restrict media freedom in Fiji and perpetuate violations of people’s right to freedom of expression.
It says despite the Government’s amendment of the draconian draft decree, journalists can still be imprisoned for being critical of the Government.
“The past actions of the Fijian Government have shown that it does not have any real commitment to upholding media freedom.
“Amnesty International fears that the decree’s vaguely worded provisions will be used to punish peaceful critics of the Government. The decree allows the Government to exert greater control of media content and ownership through a powerful new media authority."
A Media Tribunal will decide complaints referred by the Authority, but Amnesty says that despite these highly punitive powers, it will not be bound by formal rules of evidence.
Another aspect of the decree is a local ownership requirement that 90% of beneficial shareholders be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. Media outlets that do not comply with this requirement are expected to be shut down within three months from the decree’s enactment.
"This provision will likely result in the closure of the Fiji Times, an independent newspaper which has been critical of the military and Government."
The Fiji Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, has been accused by the interim government recently of being biased and unprofessional.