Fiji media group warns ‘ambiguity’ of new law change open to abuse

A Fiji news media conference 2020
A Fiji news media conference ... FMA criticises new media law amendment. Image: Eliki Nukutabu/Fiji Times

By Vijay Narayan of Fijivillage in Suva

The Fiji Media Association has expressed concern about amendments to media laws that were passed in Parliament last week, and it has called on the government to have a dialogue with the Fijian news media about their concerns.

The association is concerned about the “ambiguity” in the new amendment — and the potential for “undue interference” in the integrity and independence of the Fijian media.

The FMA said in a statement that while the government stated that the new law was meant to stop media organisations from circumventing current media laws by engaging a foreigner or foreign company to run its operations and make decisions, the amendment did not specifically mention foreigners.

It said the amendment refered to media organisations making an agreement with “any person that allows the person or any other person to manage the affairs or operations of the media organisation”.

It prohibits a media organisation from entering into any agreement which allows any other person from managing the affairs or operations of the media organisation unless the prior approval of the authority is obtained.

The FMA said there was no specific mention that this referred to an agreement with a foreigner or foreign company.

The amendment stated that this included anyone involved in the management, decision making, control of or any other governing function in relation to the day-to-day operations, finances, staffing or production of, or publication by, the media organisation.

The FMA said the amendments gave too much broad power to the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) that could be abused in the future to the detriment of the industry.

The association is also calling on the government and the opposition to respond to all media emails and calls from all media organisations and not to pick and choose which media they respond to.

It said that FMA members had received an “immense number of emails and queries” on key national issues that had been sent to government and opposition members that remained unanswered.

The FMA reiterated that respecting media freedom should also mean responding to media organisations they did not like or did not agree with.

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