Fiji media monitoring unit welcome move - CCF
CCF is welcoming planned independent media monitoring unit, but says it's unclear whether it will work in practice.
The Citizens' Constitutional Forum in Fiji says a planned independent media monitoring unit is a welcome step, but whether it will work in practice is questionable.
The Media Industry Development Authority's Ashwin Raj has said it will set up a five-member body to monitor whether media organisations are giving equal access to all political parties in the lead up to September's elections.
The head of the Forum, Akuila Yabaki, says such a move is acknowledging that the media is not independent and coverage of all parties is not always fair.
But he told Mary Baines whether such a body can be independent from the government is unclear.
AKUILA YABAKI: We didn't have any warning that it was coming. But in a way, it is welcome news, if Ashwin Raj is saying the purpose is to ensure there was transparency with the reporting. From the word go, the election is not free and fair, going by the rules, international standard rules, we haven't received sufficient information. People have a dearth of information about how they are going to vote and so forth. So if Ashwin Raj is using the words "independent unit consisting of people who have a wealth of experience" I think that's welcome news because obviously they're aware that the media is not independent and they still suffer under self-censorship. If this is a way of ensuring that the standards are raised in terms of media independence and freedom of expression, which is needed for free and fair elections, then I think that's a move in the right direction. But the taste is in the eating actually.
MARY BAINES: What do you think of coverage so far? Is it not fair, would you say?
AY: Not fair. Because for instance, the parties haven't got the Electoral Act on which they need to work. If someone knows the Electoral Act it would be Frank Bainimarama, and he's already campaigning knowing what the Electoral Act is. So from that point of view, it's not free and fair. And then the coverage, Ashwin Raj is saying, the coverage by the media leading up to the election needs to be monitored. And I think that he's appointed by the government, if he's able to make things independent, well and good. But the Electoral Commission, we spoke to last week, that's the seven-member Electoral Commission, they said they've had two rounds at looking at the Electoral Decree and they must have made some suggestions in terms of benchmarks to ensure free and fair elections or to raise the standard, as I have said. But still we haven't got the Electoral Act out. There are issues there that have to be part of this independent reporting.
MB: So there is an imbalance in the Fiji media, even parties that have been registered aren't being properly covered?
AY: Yes, there's free and fair on the radio for the government, for Frank Bainimarama, who has not announced his party yet. That's due on the 22nd of April. But he is actually doing a lot of radio work, out in the islands in the eastern part of Fiji, having an audience with villages, already doing vote-buying operations.
MB: Do you think it will actually work in practice though, this independent media monitoring unit?
AY: It's very hard to believe. I think the people will have to be more mobilised to be able to claim the space. That's how I would address that.
Reverend Akuila Yabaki says he is looking forward to finding out more about how and when the unit will be set up, with the elections meant to take place in just six months.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: