Bill to amend media laws tabled in Fiji Parliament

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The Fijian parliament will debate the Media Industry Development (Budget Amendment) Bill 2010 later this week.

The Bill seeks to amend the Act to ensure that those who are directly in charge of a media organisation and its operations are shielded from any outside influence, that may by formal agreement or other arrangements, essentially take over or control the provision of services that deal with the day-to-day operations of the media organisation including its finances, staffing, productions or publications.

The Bill also amends the Act to prohibit a media organisation from entering into any agreement which allows any other person from managing the affairs or operations of the media organisation without the prior approval of the Authority.

This will ensure that control of a media organisation remains with the media organisation.

More importantly, the proposed amendment will prevent a person from circumventing safeguards for media organisations provided for under the Act.

Lastly, the Bill amends the Act to require a media organisation to notify the Authority where any such agreement exists and to provide details of the agreement in order to verify and ensure that the media organisation’s operations are not in any way unduly influenced.

The Media Industry Development Act 2010 provides for inter alia the regulation and registration of media organisations in Fiji.

Under section 33 of the Act, every media organisation that provides or intends to provide media services in Fiji must be registered under the Act.

A media organisation is registered when the proprietor or proprietors of the media organisation deposit with the Media Industry Development Authority (‘Authority’), a duly sworn and signed affidavit or affidavits containing the required information as specified under the Act.

Section 38 of the Act provides that in the case of a company, all directors of a media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. In the case of any other legal entity, the person or persons with analogous powers in a media organisation, must also be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.
Section 38 of the Act also provides the limits of beneficial ownership of shares in a company or any other interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation.

Accordingly, up to 10% of the beneficial ownership or interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation is allowed for any foreign person holding such shares or interests while 90% of any beneficial ownership of shares or any other interest in the nature of ownership of the media organisation, must be owned by Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS