Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fiji media decree consultations a sham

posted by pacific in the media -TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 2010

It comes as no surprise that there's blood on the floor a day out from the long-awaited and controversial media decree. Dissent is not something this illegal government tolerates.

So when the managing director of the Fiji Times, Anne Fussell, basically said it was stink that stakeholders would get just two and a half hours to make submissions, the loyal lieutenant Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was quick to quash her today.

But Fussell is right; the miserable two and a half hours is another attempt to control the process. She is also right to consider the affect the dedree will have on investment and revenue sources coming into Fiji.

The outraged Sayed-Khaiyum saw concerns as a threat and seemed particularly stung by the Fiji Times' lack of respect. He told Fiji Television: “This is a media organisation that does not recognise the government, that does not call the Prime Minister the Prime Minister, does not recognise various other members of the government, yet we find suddenly they are worried about the economy and trying to link economy with the decree."

The talks start tomorrow and, supposedly, the Fiji Times will be allowed to attend. But like the recent talks with the Methodist Church leaders, this week's consultiations will be a sham.

The Fiji government, thanks to Sayed-Khaiyum, is poised to issue policies and regulations based on the censorship codes Singapore introduced in the 1970s, where one ruling body approves and control everything relating to media, from newspapers, radio, tv to the internet (even the arts) as well as foreign ownership.

The Government of Singapore has long argued that censorship of violence and sexual themes is necessary as the Singaporean populace is deeply conservative, and censorship of political, racial and religious content is necessary to avoid upsetting the balance of Singapore's delicate multi-racial society. 

But the restrictions on the media is an authoritarian belief the government knows better than anyone how to advance the economic, social and cultural well-being of their peoples. Okay, supporters say censorship helps promotes values; generic values, such as patriotism, social harmony and economic growth, are upheld by authoritarian regimes and embedded in their policies, which deserve special attention.

But most people know the authority exists to keep the government in power and its hardline policies in place.

Like the misguided Singapore, the Fiji interim government would have us believe that they are doing right by the people, by introducing draconian and inhumane regulations that rob us of our rights because they're trying to build us a better Fiji.

But who gave them the right to try and create this perfect Utopia? Yes, some supported the Bainimarama coup and feel dizzy with gratitude for the 'improvements' in the country (see the Facebook for fans of Bainimarama) but the majority of us did not and remain unconvinced we are in good hands.

Sayed-Khaiyum and his hierarchy are naive to think the Anne Fussell's of this not-so-brave New World of ours will slink off quietly.

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