UN Criticism Prompts Fiji Attorney General To Defend Media Decree

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Maintains that ‘media is free to approach anyone for comment’

By Ropate Valemei

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 6, 2012) – Fiji's Media Industry Development Decree 2010 aims to maintain high standards and integrity of journalism just like similar regulation in other countries, says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Sayed-Khaiyum made the comment in response to the United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) office report 'Press freedom, a delicate flower in the Pacific', an op-ed by Matilda Bogner.

Regional UNHR representative Matilda Bogner had said it appears that a culture of self-censorship continues to exist for journalists in Fiji.

"A preliminary media content analysis conducted recently by my office, comparing Fiji’s two main daily newspapers before and after the lifting of the PER (Public Emergency Regulations), suggests that there has been no distinguishable change in the level of criticism of the Fiji Government observed in either newspaper," she said.

Bogner said the research also suggests that in both papers there is a tendency to rely heavily on the Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Fiji government department spokespeople, sportspeople and private sector leaders, as sources, with little to no prominence given to alternative or critical voices, such as those from opposition political parties or civil society.

However, Sayed-Khaiyum said Bogner’s oversimplified interpretation of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 can be imposed by the Government at any time under section 80," is not only deceiving, but excludes any consideration for the historical context that informs these mechanisms are now in place to ensure the protection for those affected.

"This document (Media Decree) outlines a transparent code of ethics; various codes of practice; and provisions that provide protections from false or misleading information; discrimination; obstruction of justice; subterfuge; harassment; protection of consumers and provisions to support balanced reporting," he said.

"Under Section 80 of the Decree, if the Minister has reason to believe that any ‘broadcast or publication may give rise to disorder... and cause undue demands to be made upon the security agencies or may result in a breach of the peace ... promote disaffection or public alarm ... or undermine the Government and the State of Fiji’ in a way that incites violence, or threatens national security, then the Minister may prohibit such broadcast or publication."

He said this kind of demagoguery and rhetoric – under the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 – would not be permitted to cause such untamed disruption, destruction of public order, or national crisis.

He said the media is free to approach whoever it wants to for comment.

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