Media NGO in Fiji says authority must give clarity on clauses
Media NGO in Fiji calls on authority to clarify rules and process on hate speech.
A media NGO in Fiji says the Media Industry Development Authority needs to clarify its scope, after a controversial speech aired on television prompted threats of fines.
The Chairman of MIDA, Ashwin Raj, told media last week that Fiji One had breached the media decree for airing what he called 'hate speech' from a chief in Tailevu.
The Executive Director of Fiji Media Watch, Agatha Ferei, told Alex Perrottet that Mr Raj may have overstepped his authority.
AGATHA FEREI: Some companies are bringing out a lot of people's perspectives and are able to do that but some other companies are focusing on what the government of the day is putting out on the campaigns of politicians like our current Prime Minister, he's been reflected a lot in some of our media papers. But there is space and we are seeing that other politicians are also given the same opportunity in some of the media outlets.
ALEX PERROTTET: And turning to the events with Ratu Timoci Vesikula, do you think there was a problem with Fiji TV airing what was simply the conversation in a talanoa session?
AF: No I don't think it should be a problem. I don't think that Fiji One should be considered a problem airing that. I personally believe that it is a public speech by an individual and I think that any media organisation should be able to air public speeches by individuals or politicians that are staged in public areas. All media industries, whether it's TV One or any radio company should be able to put this out to members of the public.
AP: One of the reasons Ashwin Raj gave for clamping down on what he called the 'hate speech' was the clauses in the constitution which say there are limitations on freedom of speech when it's hateful and when it incites people to violence. Do you think he is underestimating the civility of the population to hear those comments and be able to make their own minds up about whether it was unfair or not?
AF: Well what I think needs to be done at this stage is the MIDA industry themselves, they need to be able to exercise more responsibility. And with their perspective that it was a hate speech or whether it is not, what I think needs to be done it for MIDA to inform the members of the public who their members are in the tribunal and also the processes that they are taking or have taken to determine issues like hate speech. At the same time the chairperson may need to also exercise responsibility in understanding that his role is that of the authority, and that it should be treated differently from the role of the tribunal."
AP: And do you think that newspapers and outlets are going to be a bit more cautious now after this latest decision by MIDA?
AF: What is needed at the moment is that if people are going to exercise caution in terms of what they put out we must just all call for clarity of clauses. If there's a clause out there that we are not sure of we need to call on those that are putting those clauses out to clarify what they mean, so that people are able to trust the processes that are used. And I think this is an important time to have all of this, in Fiji.
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