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New Human Rights Head On Role (Part 2)

  Newly-appointed Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj believes that the commission has an extremely important role to play in the development of a new Fiji that
20 Mar 2016 09:00
New Human Rights Head On Role (Part 2)
Newly-appointed Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Director, Ashwin Raj

 

Newly-appointed Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj believes that the commission has an extremely important role to play in the development of a new Fiji that is built on the principles of dignity, equality and freedom for all Fijians.

This is the continuation of the set of interview questions and answers from yesterday by the Commission director Ashwin Raj.

 

  1. Tell us about the anti-discrimination role of the

Commission?

Strong and progressive “anti-discrimination” laws are integral to the realisation of human dignity, equality and freedom for all Fijians. Section 26 of the Constitution provides for the right to equality and freedom from discrimination. Every person is equal before the law, has the right to equal protection, treatment and benefit of the law.

Equality also includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms recognised in the Bill of Rights or any other written law.

It states that a person must not be unfairly discriminated against, directly or indirectly on the grounds of his or her actual or supposed personal characteristics or circumstances, including race, culture, ethnic or social origin, colour, place of origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, birth, primary language, economic or social or health status, disability, age, religion, conscience, marital status or pregnancy as well as opinions or beliefs as long as it does not cause harm or result in the diminution of the rights of others.

To address and effectively implement these constitutional provisions the Commission will embark on a robust education and advocacy programme engaging the education sector, disciplinary forces, medical authorities and religious organisations.

The Commission will also appoint a disability desk officer, a child desk officer as well as consider the appointment a sexual diversity officer to empower the Commission in its anti-discrimination role.

Furthermore, we will ensure that the Commission in its new location is disability friendly and that the building itself is Paris Principle compliant. Works are already underway to equip the building with disability provisions.

 

  1. What is your strategic plan for the Commission?
  • Greater visibility of the Commission through advocacy
  • Sound administrative platform and aligned corporate

plan

  • Enforcement of human rights norms and effective moni

toring

  • Paris Principles compliance and a focused strategy for

achieving “A-status” accreditation to enable Fiji to join

the UN Human Rights Council

 

  1. You will continue to hold the role of Chair MIDA since there is no conflict of interest. What will you do in case there are complaints to the Commission on media issues?

Section 9 of the Media Industry Development Authority Decree 2010 provides that the Authority has inter alia powers to-

(a) develop and monitor codes of practice relating to content or technical standards for media services or to standards of fair market conduct in the media industry, and monitor compliance with such codes;

(b) monitor compliance with the ethical standards of the print and broadcast media in accordance with the Media Codes of Ethics and Practice;

(c)  monitor compliance by television broadcasters with the Television Programme Classification Code;

(d) oversee the development, implementation, maintenance and review of media codes; and

(e)  Refer to the Tribunal complaints brought by the public against media organisations alleging a breach of the media codes.

The decree also establishes the Media Tribunal (“Tribunal”) whose chairperson must be qualified to be a judge. Under section 50(1) of the Decree, the Media Tribunal has the jurisdiction to-

(a) hear and determine complaints referred by the Authority;

(b) hear and determine complaints referred by the Authority on behalf of a complainant;

(c)  hear and determine complaints refreed by a complainant;

(d) adjudicate on actions for breach of the media codes; and

(e)  Adjudicate on matters relating to media disputes.

 

The decree clearly separates the powers and functions of the Media Industry Development Authority and the Media Tribunal to avoid any conflict of interest. It is therefore prudent to note that I am not the chairperson of the Media Tribunal and therefore I will not be adjudicating on complaints brought before the Tribunal.

Furthermore, section 45(4) of the Fijian Constitution outlines the various functions of the Commission. It is imperative to note that under the Constitution the Commission is independent and is not subject to the direction and control of any person or authority, except by a court of law or as otherwise prescribed by written law. In the event that the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission does receive a complaint against the Media Industry Development Authority, I will recuse myself from dealing with the complaint in my capacity as the director of the Commission as it is at this point that there is a clear conflict of interest.  These measures are extremely important to avoid any perceived or actual conflict of interest- an issue that the Commission takes very seriously.

Feedback:  litia.cava@fijisun.com.fj



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