Fiji Government: Bill Will Not Criminalize Critcism Of Parliament

Critics claim proposed bill will stifle free speech

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, May 4, 2017) – The Fiji government says a new bill will not prevent criticism of the government or MPs if enacted.

Clause 24 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill proposes penalties for defaming, demeaning or undermining the sanctity of parliament.

Critics of the clause say it would stifle free speech.

But the chair of the committee hearing submissions, the MP Ashneel Sudhakar, said the clause would only protect the institution.

"It doesn't mention anywhere that you cannot criticise the government or cannot crticise the members of parliament," Mr Sudhakar said.

"The words of clause 24 are clear and all it's saying is that you cannot criticise wrongly the institution of parliament, the speaker and the committees. That's all that the clause mentions.

"People who are criticising that clause they are reading words into that clause and saying that it is preventing or gagging the people from crticising MPs or the government," he said.

"Everybody has a right to criticise the government and its policies that feels they need to do so."

Mr Sudhakar said clause 24 would extend defamation protection to parliament similar to existing law that protects the courts.



Division 1 - Defamation


24.-(1) Any person whose words or actions defame, demean or undermine the

sanctity of Parliament, the Speaker or a committee commits an offence and is liable

upon conviction-

(a) in the case of a natural person, to a fine not exceeding $30,000 or to

imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both; or

(b) in the case of a body corporate, to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to

imprisonment for each director and manager for a term not exceeding 5

years, or to both.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to words spoken or acts done by a member within

the parliamentary precincts.

(3) Nothing in this section prevents Parliament from taking action against any member

for any words spoken or acts done within or beyond parliamentary precincts.

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