25 Aug 2006

Fiji media bill proposes tough penalties

3:11 pm on 25 August 2006

It's been revealed in Fiji that the government's Broadcasting Licensing Bill to control radio and television contains very harsh penalties.

The Bill provides for a fine of 300,000 US dollars and cancellation of the licence of any radio or television company found to be in breach of conditions of its licence.

The penalty would be enforced if the companies are found to be deviating from the advertising and programs content codes defined by the Broadcasting Licensing Authority that the Bill would set up.

The chairman of the Fiji Media Council, Daryl Tarte, says this is just a blatant move to control the broadcast media.

Mr Tarte says the Bill vests too much power in the information minister who is a political person and the Broadcast Authority would have to operate on government policies which are politically driven.

The chief executive of Fiji Television Limited, Mesake Nawari, says under the Bill there will be no freedom of the press and no protection of broadcasting as an important part of the democratic process.

The chief executive of the state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Francis Herman, says if the Bill is implemented their newsroom would be reduced to running stories like the opening of bridges and such matters.