Parliament unanimously voted for amendments to sections 65 and 66 of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 (the Decree), which removes jurisdiction from the Media Tribunal to fine journalists for a breach of the Decree. This is an encouraging development for journalists and media rights and freedoms; however it does not resolve the issue of media censorship in the country.
Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) maintains that the amendment to the Decree does not bring about any significant change to the restrictive media environment in the country. The threat and fear of fines may well be removed from journalists but it remains for the publishers, editors and organisations that employ them. As such the media industry remains censored.
“Lifting the fines on journalists is encouraging and a positive development, but this does not solve the overarching problem of media censorship in Fiji,” says CCF’s Programme Manager, Ken Cokanasiga.
“Under the proposed amendment journalists are spared a fine not exceeding $1000, however, media organisations, their editors and publishers, and corporate bodies are still liable to heavy monetary fines or imprisonment terms, or both. This will result in media organisations continuing to employ self-censorship practices as they have been since the Media Industry Development Decree was introduced in 2010,” says Cokanasiga.
Pending a thorough review of the Decree, including the imposed fines on media organisations, its editors and publishers, and corporate bodies, CCF believes Fiji is far from enjoying a truly free and independent media with the imminent obstacles the Decree poses to the media industry.
The media plays a vital role in building a vibrant democracy and it is imperative that it is free to carry out its work without censorship or intimidation from executive authorities.
For further information or questions contact CCF’s Communications Officer on (679) 3308 379/8672255 (mobile) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.