Media under siege throws democracy into jeopardy

Dr Biman Prasad – 

An NFP Government will repeal the Media Industry Development Decree because we believe that the media should not be regulated in any way by the State or any government.

An NFP Government will also (a) Ensure taxpayer funds are justifiably used by spreading advertisements by Government and Statutory organisations across all media outlets and end the exclusivity enjoyed by one newspaper as is currently the case (b) Ensure funding for Public Service Broadcast for all mainstream broadcast and television media and not exclusive to Fiji Broadcasting Commission (c) Ensure Fiji Airways provides both daily newspapers to its passengers instead of providing only Fiji Sun

Victims of bias

NFP upholds and promotes media freedom at all times despite falling victim to biased and unfair reporting by some media outlets. We do not blame the journalists but those leading those organisations using exclusive access to taxpayer’s funds to trumpet only government’s view.

We once again call upon Fiji Television Limited to re-instate journalist Shanal Sivan to the Fiji TV newsroom.

Mr Sivan was removed from the Fiji TV newsroom by the Group CEO of Fijian Holdings Limited for amplifying the voice of ordinary citizens who expressed their disappointment over Government’s broken promises.

Sinking to new lows

This is the kind of State interference in newsrooms through management of news organisations that has seen Fiji ranked the lowest of Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea, in a recent report released by Reporters Without Borders.

Generally, the media industry in this country has been under siege since the military coup of December 2006.  The last eight years, especially after the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on April 10, 2009, have been turbulent and devastating for journalists and the media industry.

While the promulgation of the ‘Media Industry Development Decree in 2010’ ended State’s presence in the newsrooms and direct censorship, self-censorship is being practiced in most newsrooms with journalists awaiting responses from government before publishing and broadcasting any statement by the Opposition.

Cosmetic changes

Only cosmetic changes were made to the Decree in July 2015 with fines against journalists removed but heavy penalties against Editors, Publishers and the media organisations remain like a noose around one’s neck.

The Media Industry Development Decree is regressive and suppresses Media Freedom.

A free, fair and unregulated media is absolutely vital for true and genuine democracy as well as to amplify the voices of not only Government but also the Opposition, without fear.

Dr Biman Prasad is elected Member of Parliament and Leader of the National Federation Party in Fiji.

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