The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins with Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), the regional media monitoring group, in being deeply concerned that requirements proposed by Fiji’s media authority for foreign media trainers, independent journalists and communications workers to register with the authority are a backward step at a time when all sections of the media should be encouraged to report freely in the lead-up to Fiji’s September 2014 general election.
The new chairman of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA), academic Ashwin Raj, announced on October 8 that MIDA was looking to extend the registration requirements applied to foreign media trainers and organisations. This media training includes issues such as media freedom, democracy, human rights and election reporting.
Raj had initially called for a more open dialogue among Fiji’s media about the the decree under which they work and he talked about helping the media promote a “culture of deep democracy”, including a rejection of self-censorship. But Raj also indicated there would be a wider interpretation of the authority’s powers, extending them to foreign media trainers, organisations that produce their own media and to freelance journalists working in Fiji. Raj said any person or organisations wanting to train or work with the local media must first seek approval from MIDA.
PFF chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea said:
“We are always ready to engage with the Fijian media authority and welcome the call for honest dialogue, but the requirement to register for a whole new section of media workers could discourage the very thing Fiji’s media needs at the moment. The media in Fiji need all the training and moral support they can get as the country prepares for its first general election in eight years in September 2014 under a new Constitution,” Gabi said.
PFF co-Chair Monica Miller of American Samoa said: “There is no need for another layer of scrutiny in what is already a tightly regulated media environment. While the requirement to register may seem logical for Fiji’s media authority, any extra step in this direction is one more limitation on freedom of expression in a country that is in democratic transition and needs as much openness as possible.
IFJ Asia-Pacific said: “The Media Industry Development Authority has a vital role to play at this important moment in Fiji’s history. The encouragement of open dialogue and the rejection of self-censorship are most welcome. But the suggestion of applying additional restraint on some sections of the media at the precise time when openness and transparency should be encouraged is wrong. We hope MIDA will reconsider its position.”
Both the IFJ and the PFF are fully prepared to work with MIDA on developing a robust, ethical and free media in Fiji and would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to cooperatively bring this about.
The Media Industry Development Authority or MIDA has today stressed that it is not restricting any foreign journalists from coming to Fiji.
While reacting strongly to a statement from the Pacific Freedom Forum, Authority Director, Matai Akauola said the misleading statement is far from the truth. Akauola said further steps are now being taken but they want the person based in Fiji to declare his interest as the Forum’s statement is misleading. The Pacific Freedom Forum Coordinator in Fiji said they will comment after they see the statement. Source: Fijivillage News