NEW FIJI PM CHAUDHRY SUPPORTS MEDIA FREEDOM

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 22, 1999 – Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's new Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, yesterday vowed not to legislate or license media organizations.

But, he said, media organizations, starting from management, needed "a lot of tuition" and that there was a lot of room for improvement.

He said it was up to individual media organizations to train and educate its workers and to ensure fairness during the general elections.

He said the press had been biased [against] the Fiji Labour Party during campaign time and that its responsibility during elections was to the people and not to its shareholders.

"I think the media should be fair. We won't bring in any legislation, no licensing, but I hope there will be training in media organizations," he said.

On government's shares in the Daily Post, Mr. Chaudhry said his party had objected to government acquiring those shares because it was not the job of a government to run a press.

He said he would look at how best his government could dispose of its shares.

(* The government led by Sitiveni Rabuka ousted in this month's general election had been in the process of drafting legislation. This would have provided for a media code of ethics and a legislated "media council" which would have replaced the independent and self-regulating Fiji Media Council established by the local media industry in 1994.)

During the election campaign, Mr. Chaudhry singled out the country's biggest newspaper, the Murdoch Fiji Times, for alleged bias against his Labour Party. But the editors of the Times have denied these allegations.

Last year, the Labour Party took a complaint to the Fiji Media Council over alleged bias, but it was rejected.

Title -- 2129 FIJI: New PM promises 'no legislation' Date -- 24 May 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Fiji Times, 22/5/99 Copyright – FT Status -- Unabridged

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