Fijian Media Association(FMA) President and Fiji Sun Managing Editor Rosi Doviverata says while the media is appreciative of the repeal of the Media Industry Development Authority Act, a lot still needs to be done.

Speaking during a panel discussion on the topic of Navigating Fiji’s Media Landscape: Reflections on a Year of Change for FMA World Press Freedom Day, Doviverata said there are open door policies but asks what does it mean when current ministers, permanent secretaries and officials who are empowered to talk to the media do not respond.

“You know they say that they have all these open door policies but what does it mean, when current Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, and officials who are empowered to talk to the Media don’t respond.”

She said how difficult then, is the practice of journalism if there are still blocks to information flow between the powers that be and journalists who are acting on behalf of the public.

Doviverata said government’s support media freedom can no longer be a lip service and government needs to put their money where their mouth is.

She said newsrooms are closing down around the world and we see news deserts emerging in a rapid scale that we’ve never seen before and for Fiji, while government can guarantee media freedom, more needs to be done.

While giving the example of what happened in New Zealand during COVID where the New Zealand government set aside funding for newsrooms that were facing challenges during that time, Doviverata said newsrooms here face challenges of trying to survive and perhaps it is time that government can also do the same and consider that.

Attorney General Siromi Turaga said the government stands firm and they have an open door policy.

Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar/PINA

“We stand firm, it’s an open-door policy, yes it is only 15 months or so and most of us are the new kids on the block, I would say. But I make my commitment, I don’t see any of the government Ministers very reluctant to speak with the media, for one if there is an opportunity, I willingly do.”

FMA Vice President and Fiji Times Editor, Fred Wesley said freedom of expression is essential in a democracy and we saw how the power of the people forced the government to reconsider the estimated budget allocation for the National Economic Summit in 2023 for instance.

FMA Vice President and Fiji Times Editor, Fred Wesley. Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar/PINA

Wesley said this is what it is all about – people holding power to account and the powers that be, in this case, the government responding.

He said the ability to express opinions freely is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy, and there is a greater appreciation for democratic values.

FMA Executive and fijivillage News Director, Vijay Narayan said for any strong democracy, the true test of the system is if it has media freedom which is one of the strongest pillars of democracy, to ensure that we can question without fearing.

FMA Executive and fijivillage News Director, Vijay Narayan. Photo: Sanjeshni Kumar/PINA

He said the attacks and intimidation became a norm for some of the journalists and they knew this would come but they just continued to go in that direction to inform the people of this country on what was happening.

He said for journalists, this is a calling to serve the people of the country and to hold those in power accountable without fear or favour.

Narayan said a lot of work lies ahead for the media industry because the intimidation is not there but the media needs to urgently focus on critical issues that affect the people which include drugs, water woes and the health crisis. He add we have to ensure that self regulation continues and that is the promise they have all made.