News challenges ahead for journalists in Fiji
The President of the Fijian Media Association, Ricardo Morris, says journalists have a new challenge ahead as democracy takes hold in Fiji.
The President of the Fijian Media Association, Ricardo Morris, says journalists have new challenges ahead following last month's election.
He says the media had to reorient itself under the regime of the past eight years particularly when the Media Decree with its stiff penalties came in to force in 2010.
He told Philippa Tolley the re-establishment of a parliamentary democracy means reorienting once again.
RICARDO MORRIS: Now we have also had to realise that, you know, we now back to democracy, getting back to democracy, we now have to open up and not be so afraid to ask, to ask questions and to, especially, holding those in power to account. I think that is where we have to find, get ourselves back to.
PHILIPPA TOLLEY: And also there has been a considerable change I suppose, I mean eight years, things change and work environments but, but a lot of senior journalists have actually left the profession. Does this mean there is a certain, sort of, lack of leadership or experience?
RM: Yes there is no doubt the big proportion of the media and journalists that are working now have never covered a general election, they are quite young and so the departure a lot of senior journalists and editors from the media has left a big vacuum. Those of the senior journalists left, have had to fill in and do the best they can. So I think that is another issue that we will have to work on now, is capacity building, training, development and also showing journalists, that you can practice journalism as freely, you know, as possible and that the restrictions shouldn't hamper that.
PT: Now that there has been an election, is your hope that the decree will be lifted? Do you think that is something that might possibly happen?
RM: The Fiji First Government that has now been elected was, the government, the Bainimarama government was responsible for putting in the Media Decree. So I do not think that any changes will come about soon, I mean there has been a push for some sections to be, you know, modified looked into again and amended. But I think on the whole, there is, that decree will remain and that is what we will have to work with.
PT: So even though post election, obviously, it is going to be an elected regime, that media decree is still going to be sitting there. Is, does that likely to have a bit of a chilling effect?
RM: It depends too on how, how you, people have different interpretations of what the effect of the decree will be. I mean, I am of the view that yes, while those restrictions are there, if, if you know the limits that it prescribes and you know, you know the kinds of things it can and cannot do, there is quite a lot of room to work within it. People who are savvy enough will be able to work within the confines of the media decree, but still, you know, provide dynamic journalism.
PT: The other thing I suppose is debate in Parliament. That is going to open up lots more opportunity for reporting conflict. Not something that has been so popular in the past. How do you think that is going to sit? Parliament and the media decree and journalists that are not so versed in that sort of level of reporting?
RM: Well I think that the benefit of reporting parliament is because you have the privilege, privilege. You know, you are covered by privilege and so that will open up a lot of space that, you know, a lot of Journalists in Fiji have never experienced before. So the fact that you can report, you know, blunt criticisms against an opponent. Will probably be surprising for a lot of journalists. But I think when they, once they get the hang of it, things should start to improve.
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