Fijian Media Association statement in response to RSF report about Press Freedom in Fiji

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The Fijian Media Association (FMA) does not endorse any report it has not participated in, but agrees with certain statements within the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report particularly on the threat of legislation such as the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) Act to criminalise and impose heavy fines on media organisations or editors.

While we are under various pressures the Fijian media remains bold and thriving and committed to fulfill its role. Intimidations do occur from various sides of the political divide – both government and opposition and the report is not correct about journalists being imprisoned.

No imprisonment of journalists has happened in the last decade although there have been instances of journalists being questioned over their reports, and cases of media organisations and editors being taken to court.”

However, this report is another clear reminder to the Government to review and remove sections in the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) act that imposes harsh penalties on the media. These breaches include content that is deemed against the public interest or order, is against national interest, or creates communal discord, or even if the media does not include a byline for articles exceeding 50 words.

The fines for any of the above breaches are up to $100,000 (US$50,000) for media organisations or in the case of a publisher or editor a fine up to $25,000 (US$12,500), or up to two years’ imprisonment.

Who defines what is against the public interest or what is against the national interest? While the Fijian media have been doing their best to be bold and free and abiding by their code of ethics – these laws are making many media organisations and editors hesitate about publishing or broadcasting certain views that may go against the Government based on how they may interpret that legislation and come after a media organisation.

The fines are too excessive and designed to be vindictive and punish the media rather that encourage better reporting standards and be corrective.

Media organisations in Fiji are almost unanimous in seeking the removal of the harsh fines and penalties and a review of the act. It is dangerous for media freedom now and also in the future. The MIDA act has been ineffective and has done little to nothing to raise media standards.

While the media in Fiji has been doing its work in informing the public and holding Government accountable – the massive fines hanging over their heads is not conducive to a free media environment.

SOURCE: FMA/PACNEWS