Fiji Opposition Decries Calls For Regulation Of Social Media

Human Rights director, MIDA chair Raj rejects NFP calls for his dismisal 

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 3, 2017) – The National Federation Party (NFP) has called for the immediate dismissal of Ashwin Raj in both his positions as chair of the Media Industry and Development Authority (MIDA) and director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC).

The party's call follows Mr Raj's suggestions to stifle freedom of speech on national television - FBC TVs talkback show '4 the Record'.

He said that the suggestions last Sunday on FBC TV where he urged the State to pursue the regulation of social media was shocking and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

"The NFP strongly condemns these suggestions to the State by Mr Raj, which we know are all being said under the pretext of responsibility," Prof Prasad said.

"It is chilling, unconstitutional and could be easily wielded as an instrument to again stifle the voices of the people of Fiji.

"What we find further disturbing are his pointed attacks on political parties and then the further justification of these attacks, to bring in regulation over social media."

Prof Prasad said Mr Raj should be terminated from his positions to allow other more "worthy, neutral and independent" Fijians to apply for the position.

"His utterances and accusations are damning where he has crossed the line as a public servant acting as a mouthpiece for a political agenda."

In response, Mr Raj said the NFP leader seemed to be in the habit of distorting facts.

"The fact is that my intervention on 4 the Record was very clearly about considering the possibility of regulating hate speech on the social media," Mr Raj said.

"Hate speech is a constitutional crime. It is not about suppressing freedom of expression. I clearly talked about balancing freedom of expression with responsibility.

"The leader of the NFP was invited by the FBC twice to address these matters and he refused. If he is the paragon of virtue and is speaking truth to power, then why is he refusing to engage me on these matters that affect ordinary Fijians."

He said both the Fijian Constitution and international law expressly prohibited hate speech.

"This was in fact affirmed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement issued on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

"Does the UN High Commissioner have a political agenda and must be dismissed? Here is a political party that has given active credence to hate speech and when I called them out for what it is, they do what the NFP has always done, ask the heads of independent institutions to resign.

"So I am not surprised."

Fiji Times Online.
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