Raj Hits Out At Media Critics

The Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) has hit back at claims the Media Decree had “put a noose around the Fijian media’s neck”. Ricardo Morris, editor and publisher of Republika
01 Dec 2014 09:35
Raj Hits Out At Media Critics
MIDA chairman Ashwin Raj.

The Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) has hit back at claims the Media Decree had “put a noose around the Fijian media’s neck”.

Ricardo Morris, editor and publisher of Republika magazine and president of the Fijian Media Association, made the claims. He was speaking at a three-day Pacific Journalism Review conference in Auckland, New Zealand, organised by a Pacific Media Centre there at a university called AUT.

The decree was also criticised by Shailendra Singh, and Barbara Dreaver. Mr Singh is the former head of the University of the South Pacific journalism programme who is completing a doctorate, about media laws and political journalism in Fiji. Ms Dreaver is the Pacific correspondent for TV One in New Zealand and is currently banned from Fiji because of complaints over her reporting.

Ashwin Raj, MIDA chairman, said  he took “strong exception to the unsubstantiated claims”.

Mr Raj said: “Despite the restoration of constitutional, electoral and parliamentary democracy in Fiji, their assertions are a sad indictment of the continuous attempts by select local media as well as international media, driven by profit over people, to keep Fiji in a permanent state of injury and a perpetual state of crisis.

“Barbara Dreaver, after all, shamelessly asseverates: ‘News needs fireworks, multi-media as well as images’. I have a message for them: Not at the expense of Fiji and its people. Dreaver’s banal observation that “the biggest threat media faces in the Pacific is themselves because of culture and family ties” ignores the importance of ethics, responsibility, transparency and the complicity of the international media in perpetuating crisis in Fiji.

“In their evangelical zeal to present themselves as emissaries of media freedom, both Morris and Singh conveniently glossed over several facts:

(1) Unlike many other constitutional jurisdictions that deem the guaranteeing of freedom of speech, expression and publication to entail implicitly freedom of the press, the Fijian Constitution through its Bill of Rights, unequivocally recognizes freedom of the press as pivotal in the materialization of freedom of speech, expression, thought, opinion and publication.

(2) No country guarantees unfettered freedom without responsibility and Fiji is no exception. Rights are subject to limitations through law in the interests of national security and public safety and the limitations in the Fijian Constitution specifically provide for:

– The right to be free from hate speech

– The rights of persons injured by inaccurate or offensive media reports to have a correction published on reasonable conditions established by law

– Preventing the disclosure of sources

– Preventing attacks on the dignity of individuals or groups in a manner likely to promote ill will between ethnic or religious groups or the oppression of or discrimination against individuals or groups.

(3) The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 through a very progressive media code of ethics and the Constitution guarantee freedom of the press, protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources (consistent with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights and Article 10 of the Freedom of Expression provision in the European Convention of Human Rights), and encourage robust debate without inciting hatred for special communities and groups in Fiji consistent with the law on justifiable limitations to free speech under the ICCPR and the European Convention. It must be noted that the Media Code of Ethics in the Media Industry Development decree 2010 was borrowed verbatim from the code of ethics adopted by the previous self-regulated Media Council.

(4) Quite contrary to the ill-informed claims of Shailendra Singh, the 2013 Constitution supersedes the Media Industry Development Decree and the limitations set out in the Constitution must be interpreted under 7(1) to “promote the values that underlie a democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom” and (2) “may, if relevant, consider international law, applicable to the protection of the rights and freedoms” prescribed in the Bill of Rights Chapter.

(5) It is important to note that there has been only one prosecution under MIDA and that prosecution was in relation to foreign ownership of a media organization. There has been no prosecution of any media organization for breaches of the code of ethics, or of content.

(6) The only journalists that have been harassed and intimidated are in fact those that have been deemed to be pro-government.

(7) These retrogressive developments in Fiji are quite contrary to the stereotypical assumption that the state is the perpetrator suppressing any form of dissent. Why aren’t they talking about the enormous power differentials in the news room, the political economy behind media freedom, the long history of a politicized media in Fiji and the continuous politicization of the media by political opportunists? The answer is very clear: it will disrupt their convenient binary opposition of a dictatorial government and a cowed media. It’s also a story that donors don’t want to hear.

(8)                MIDA has been very supportive of the Fijian Media Association and was instrumental in its formation. If indeed the media industry was operating under such oppressive conditions as Morris claims, he would not have been able to “register an industrial organization” that he brags about.

Mr Raj said: “Instead of constructively engaging with Government, the Media Industry Development Authority and other relevant stakeholders in ensuring a robust media landscape, they have decided to appeal to the pathos of the international community in keeping Fiji in a perpetual state of crisis.”




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