By Apisalome Rabo
The Fiji Media Industry Development Authority has today ruled that comments made by Tailevu’s Ratu Timoci Vesikula were quote “nothing short of hate speech and in breach of the Bill of Rights provisions in the Fiji Constitution,” unquote.
Therefore MIDA has also ruled that Fiji One News has breached the Media Decree’s code of ethics.
MIDA is now seeking a legal opinion on whether to impose a fine under section 24 of the Media Industry Development Decree which could amount to 25 thousand dollars in the case of an editor or up to 100 thousand dollars for the organisation.
The Chairman says Ratu Timoci Vesikula’s speech also contravened Section 65 of the 2009 Crimes Decree Urging Political Violence or inciting communal violence.
“My decision this morning cannot be construed as an impingement on the freedom of expression or dismissed as yet another instance of gagging media freedom my MIDA as has been insinuated by some who are posturing as the praetorian guard of human rights but sadly very quiet over the issue of hate speech.” said Raj.
Raj also cited Section 66 which relates to seditious intention, to raise discontent or disaffection and to promote feeling of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.
“Fiji Television in giving unfettered prominence to Ratu Timoci Vesikula’s speech, has failed to comply with SCHEDULE 1 (Section [18 (1)]) Media Code of Ethics and Practice provisions of the 2010 Media Industry Development Decree.” said Raj.
Further on, he Raj explained that while section 17 of the Constitution guaranteed free speech, it is limited – also coming with responsibilities…
Quoting 17(2) of the 2013 Constitution, Raj said:
17(2) crucially proscribe the following:
Freedom of speech, expression and thought, opinion and publication does not protect
(a) Advocacy of hatred that-
i) Is based on any prohibited ground of discrimination listed or prescribed under section 26: and
ii) Constitutes incitement to cause harm
And imperative in preserving:
17 (3) to the extent that this is necessary, a law may limit or may authorize the limitation of, the rights and freedoms mentioned in subsection (1) in the interest of –
(a) National security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the orderly conduct of elections:
(b) The protection or maintenance of the reputation, privacy, dignity, rights or freedoms or other persons, including the right to be free from hate speech, whether directed against individuals or groups
He adds that while media organization are free to report and comment on all matters of public interest, it is their duty not to publish or broadcast material in a form likely to promote or encourage communal hatred or discord.
“While MIDA recognizes that it remains Government’s prerogative to execute legal proceedings against Ratu Timoci Vesikula for inciting hatred and racial ill-will, it will be closely monitoring the tenor of public discourse in the lead up to elections and the role of the media in this process. This will be a key task of the media-monitoring unit,” said Raj.
Maintaining the authority’s independence from government and any political party, Raj said MIDA will stringently deal with media outlets that continue to breach the law.
“In the interest of transparency, the Authority will require full translation of speeches and texts presented in the vernacular at all political rallies and forum and it is incumbent upon the media in Fiji to ensure that there is no dissonance in the content of speeches and texts presented either in the vernacular or English in their various modes of delivery.”
MIDA will seek further legal advice on the possibility of imposing a fine against Fiji TV. Source: https://twitter.com/RachnaFijiTV/status/451623606749917184/photo/1
Did Fiji Sun journalists fall into a coma at the Tailevu Provincial Council meeting or chose NOT to report what Ratu Timoci Vesikula said about Indo-Fijians in Fiji to Frank Bainimarama?