Monday, April 12, 2010

Fijian broadcaster, community leader differ over draft decree

Pacific Scoop: -

12 April 2010

Report – By Gladys Hartson

Fiji broadcasting and the world. Image: FBC logo
Two Fijian community commentators in New Zealand today gave contrasting views over the controversial media decree being debated in Fiji.
A broadcaster who produces a Fiji programme for a national Pacific radio station says many people remain silent so that they “don’t rock the boat” back home while a community leader says the issues are complex and the decree is aimed at ending all coups.
Their comments follow last week’s announcement by Fiji’s military regime on a draft Media Industry Development Decree, which would regulate media ownership and news content.
Journalists in Fiji would face hefty fines and possible prison terms if they breach terms of the decree.
The draft requires all published stories to have a “byline” identifying the author.
Media organisations that are found guilty of some offences under the decree would face a fine of up to F$500,000, and individual editors and journalists with a fine of up to F$100,000 or a maximum jail term of five years.
The decree, widely criticised by international media freedom groups with a mixed reaction in Fiji, also restricts foreign ownership of media organisations to 10 percent. Ninety percent would go to Fijian citizens.
‘Stay strong’ plea
A Fiji broadcaster in Auckland has urged her colleagues back home to “stay strong, and keep reporting the truth”.
Nemai Vucago, programme producer for the Fiji show on Radio 531pi, operated by the Pacific Radio Network, has actively encouraged her community to voice their opinions on air and talk about the latest issue.
However, “the majority of people remain silent,” she said.
“Many of the Fijian community here in New Zealand have close ties with family back home. They don’t want to rock the boat,” she added.
While Vucago can understand this view, she has urged people to speak up. She called for her church in Fiji “to stand up to Bainimarama and his regime”.
Vucago said she had been critical of the current coup since the military seized power in December 2006.
She said that despite this decree her colleagues needed to “keep reporting the truth”.
She added: “Truth will set them free.”
Complex issues
A justice of the peace and leader in the Fijian community in Auckland, Sunia Raitava, said the media controversy was not a new one for Fiji.
Sunia Raitava has seen this happen in the past with three previous coups.
“It’s more complex,” Raitava said.
“There is a lot more going on in Fiji than we know about.
“It’s very hard for other countries to make comment without knowing the full facts.”
Raitava added Fiji was “crippled at the moment”.
Fiji’s removal from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum had not helped.
“They are in limbo. When the military takes over there is little one can do.”
While he does not necessarily agree with what the regime is doing, Raitava believes the regime is trying to clear up years of corruption.
According to Raitava, there are still “coup makers lurking in the background, waiting to cause trouble”.
“People need to understand why this is happening.”
“It’s important for countries like New Zealand and Australia to sit down with the Commodore [Voreqe Bainimarama] and ask him why he is doing this. Only Bainimarama knows what is happening,” he said.
Raitava added: “I am Fijian, only Fijians really understand what is happening.”
Gladys Hartson is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and is working with Pacific Media Watch.

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