Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fiji Times told to cut Murdoch ties

- NZPA, 29 June 2010 - NZ Herald

Fiji's military regime has given its most popular newspaper three months to remove media magnate Rupert Murdoch as its owner.
The Media Industry Development Decree, which requires media groups to be 90 per cent locally owned, came into effect yesterday and effectively requires Murdoch to relinquish most of his share in the Fiji TimesFiji Live reported.
The head of the Attorney-General's office in Commodore Frank Bainimarama's regime, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said the Fiji Times would face closure if it did not comply with the decree.
"Fiji Times, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd, have been given three months to ensure they comply with the requirements of the media decree or cease operations altogether," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
New Zealand Media Freedom Committee secretary Tim Pankhurst said the measures were part of a disturbing trend towards dictatorship, and another reason New Zealanders should boycott travelling to Fiji.
"I believe that individuals should take action against them [Fiji's military regime] by not holidaying in Fiji," Mr Pankhurst said.
When the new measures were announced in April, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum described the newspaper as "the purveyor of negativity, at least for the past three years".
Other measures in the decree include establishing a tribunal to ensure nothing is printed or broadcast against the "national interest or public order", said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.NZ Herald

Fiji regime further cracks down on media

June 28, 2010


News Ltd says it is outraged about the Fijian government's decree that gives Rupert Murdoch's Australian arm three months to sell or close its newspaper The Fiji Times.

The decree forces the paper to be 90 per cent locally owned in three months and follows tough new restrictions on the Pacific nation's media on Monday.

The country's military leader Frank Bainimarama has been tightening controls on the media since he overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup.

Advertisement: Story continues belowNews Ltd chairman and chief executive John Hartigan described the decree as an appalling assault on free speech and a terrible blow for the fragile economy of Fiji.

"This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji's reputation as an attractive investment opportunity," Mr Hartigan said in a statement.

"This is an outrageous precedent that will make foreign investors in other industries very nervous about their involvement and support there."

News Ltd has argued that its involvement in Fiji is enormously beneficial to the country, through the injection of capital and management skills to build a modern printing business, training for printers and journalists, and opportunities to bring Fiji to the attention of the world.

Mr Hartigan said that News Ltd would "now explore any options it may have to remain involved in media in Fiji".

"We will fight while we still can, but there is no doubt that this move is designed to force our hand in selling the business and pulling out of Fiji altogether," Mr Hartigan said.

"This is a very sad day for News Limited, and sadder still for the fine management, staff, readers and clients of The Fiji Times.

"It will also put at risk the jobs of close to 200 people working for us in Suva, Nadi and Labasa, and threaten more than a thousand others whose livelihood is based on selling our newspapers," he said.

News Ltd said staff at the paper have already endured censorship, physical intimidation and the deportation of two successive managing directors, in 2008 and 2009.

Fijian Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told a press conference on Monday that any media organisation that failed to comply with the decree would cease to operate as a media organisation and would also be liable for an offence under the decree.

"At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements," said Sayed-Khaiyum, who has previously described the paper as a "purveyor of negativity".

Under the decree, news reports would also be required to exclude material that is "against the public interest or order", or could cause "communal discord".

A government appointed media tribunal would rule on complaints against the media.

Since a draft decree was issued in April, some proposed penalties have been reduced. But editors could still be fined 25,000 Fiji dollars ($A14,000), or jailed for two years, for some breaches. Companies could be fined up to 100,000 Fiji dollars ($A56,000) for violations.

Amnesty International has said the decree will extend the widespread censorship of newspapers and broadcasters in Fiji, whose international isolation has deepened as Bainimarama turns the screw on dissenting voices.

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