NEWS

ANALYSIS: Amend Media Decree

The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 needs to be amended not repealed. The section dealing with penalties should be reviewed. It has been a source of consternation for some journalists
29 Jan 2015 10:46
ANALYSIS: Amend Media  Decree

The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 needs to be amended not repealed.

The section dealing with penalties should be reviewed. It has been a source of consternation for some journalists who feel that it discourages them from engaging in investigative reporting.

However, the decree itself is needed. There must be no return to some of the irresponsible reporting by some media and journalists in the past.

The onus is on the media houses and those who lead them to make sure this does not happen.

But the threat of heavy punitive penalties against individual journalists needs to be reviewed. This threat does not help Fiji’s international reputation as a democracy. It is also leading to a climate where more than a few journalists are intimidated into self censorship.

That is not good for our new and true democracy.

The Opposition recently called for the scrapping of the decree claiming it was “regressive and suppresses media freedom.”

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad, speaking on behalf the Opposition, claimed that heavy fines and penalties in the decrees had led to media organisations “practising self censorship.”

The decree says any person or media organisation guilty of an offence, for which no penalty is expressly provided, shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of two years or both.

Before the decree, only the media organisation was liable. Now, both reporters and the organisations are held responsible. Media organisations could afford $10,000 but not reporters. Many reporters do not have that kind of money and the idea of two years in jail dampens their enthusiasm.

The Media Code of Ethics and Practice in the decree is the same as the one used previously. It is based on universally accepted standards. Accuracy, balance and fairness remain the criteria for good journalism.

Perhaps, the functions of MIDA should be reviewed also. It needs to be involved more with the development of journalism in the area of training than becoming the deposit box for complaints against the media.

The scaling down of the Ministry of Information to a department is indicative of the Government’s intention to lessen control and allow for a free flow of information from Government to the people. The department’s role now is to facilitate that flow.

With the restoration of democracy there is no need for a fully fledged ministry of information. The news media is free to report news as long as it follows the universal code of ethics and practice.

Removing those penalties against journalists in the decree would help the media perform its role better.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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