Friday, December 18, 2009

Analysis of draft Media Decree - Final Nail to Fiji Media Coffin

Post by: coupfourpointfive, 18 December 2009

The dictatorship regime clearly wants the media to be totally subservient to it.

Its Media Decree is perhaps the final nail to permanently bury media freedom and free speech in the coffin.

Wednesday’s press release from the regime’s Prime Minister's office is the work of Bainimarama’s most powerful ally, the interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The statement by the regime that it intends to consult with media organisations and other stakeholders is a smokescreen. The regime admits that a decree has been formulated but claims consultation is in the pipeline before the decree is finalized.

There has been no consultation whatsoever with the media before the promulgation of the Spectrum Decree that rendered all radio and television broadcast licenses temporary.

Similarly, there has been no consultation with any other affected individual or organization when other draconian decrees have been formulated, both before and after the abrogation of the Constitution in April.

Fiji Times & Fiji Television

The regime through its statement has made it clear that it does not want to talk to Fiji Times and Fiji Television claiming both organisations are “partisan, do not recognize the contemporary legal system of Fiji and the status of the Bainimarama government (regime).” The regime wants all organisations to submit themselves to these conditions.

Partisan

The regime’s claim that the Fiji Times and Fiji TV are being partisan is senseless. In fact all media outlets in Fiji have been forced to be partisan since the implementation of censorship from April.

The media cannot and are not allowed to report statements from pro-democracy activists, report on negative stories like declining economy and sugar industry or job losses, or do critical analysis of issues either through radio talkback shows, Close-Up (Fiji TV) or newspaper editorials.

All the media can and are allowed to report on are statements from the regime or stories that either are not newsworthy or take up significant space and time on news bulletins. The fact that the media has been forced to become partisan to the regime is forcing organisations to basically fill up their news pages or bulletins.

Contemporary Legal System

The regime’s demand for the media to recognize the contemporary legal system confirms its desire to ensure the judiciary is allowed to ride over the basic rights and freedoms of people, even if these basic rights and freedoms are part of United Nations Conventions like Universal Declaration of Human Rights which have been ratified by past Fiji governments.

Contemporary means the current legal system. It means recognizing and accepting the regime’s rule and authority forcibly enforced through decrees. It means agencies of the regime can violate Court Orders and decisions. Last year, Immigration Authorities defied two High Court orders to deport expatriate Fiji Sun and Fiji Times publishers – Russell Hunter and Evan Hannah.

A week ago, FICAC, the regime’s “anti-corruption” agency made sure former Airports Fiji Ltd CEO Ratu Sakiusa Tuisolia was prevented from boarding his flight to New Zealand despite the Court allowing him to do. Tuisolia has been charged by FICAC for alleged corruption. FICAC prevented him from leaving the country claiming he would face new charges.

The regime’s Contemporary Legal System also means that individuals sacked by the regime cannot seek justice before the Courts due to the promulgation of the Administration of Justice Decree. Similarly, the Spectrum Decree prevents media organisations whose broadcast licenses are either temporarily or permanently re-allocated for going to the Court to seek compensation.

The demand to recognize the regime’s version of the judiciary also means that a person can hold two positions which require neutrality and independence. New Zealand citizen Christopher Pryde is the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary for Justice.

Military lawyer Ana Rokomokoti is the Chief Registrar and Chief Magistrate. She is also responsible for prosecution of lawyers under the Legal Practitioners Decree. There is no element of independence under the regime’s legal system.

Media Decree means censorship

The Media Decree, if and when formulated, will mean Censorship of the media.

Coupfourpointfive has been reliably informed that the Public Emergency Regulations was not supposed to be extended for another month from December 10 to January 10.

The sole objective of the PER is Censorship since 10th April. We have been informed that censors from the regime’s Information Ministry were dismayed because they were told that they would not be required to visit newsrooms every day as the Media Decree would be enforced from December.

But we have been told delays in the finalization of the Decree meant the regime had to extend PER by another month.

It will be interesting to establish which media organisations become subservient to the regime, follow its demands and participate in the illegitimate consultation process.

Fiji’s media will no longer be self-regulatory, under a new media decree being drafted by the Bainimarama government, says Pio Tikoduadua, permanent secretary to the Prime Minister’s office.

“There will be a body which will allow everyone, including the media, to take their grievances if they feel they have been unfairly treated,” he told FijiLive.

The Bainimarama government had last year said a media tribunal would be set up to work alongside the Fiji Media Council, which, comprising of industry, State and public representatives, has so far helped the industry carry out self-regulation.

While there has been discussion in the past about the introduction of media licensing, the Public Emergency Regulations, enacted following the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution, now govern all media practices in Fiji.

No details have been forthcoming on the provisions of the new decree.

Tikoduadua would only say that there will be consultations with local media companies.

“Consultations are expected to begin very soon,” he said.

However, he said the Fiji Times and Fiji Television will not be consulted unless the two outlets change their editorial policies.