23 Nov 2009

Changes to broadcasting rules in Fiji draw mixed response

6:01 am on 23 November 2009

One of Fiji's main commercial broadcasters says changes made by the interim government to broadcasting rules don't present a threat to freedom of expression in Fiji.

The New Zealand government says it's disturbed at reports broadcasting licences will be revoked, and observers fear the regime's latest decree means further curbs on the media.

Fiji's interim regime has decreed all those now using the airwaves will have to apply to the government to keep doing so.

The Interim Attorney General and Communications Minister Aiyez Sayed-Khaiyum says the nation's airwaves have been allocated in a disorganised, inefficient and ad hoc fashion.

Communications Fiji, which claims 60 percent of the radio market, says it's been told by the regime that all frequencies should be viewed as temporary, pending a review of the broadcasting spectrum.

The company says it does not fear anything sinister as the haphazardly managed airwaves are due for a shake-up.

The action was carried out by decree, which does not allow any court or other agency to overturn the decision.

Australia's Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, says the effective seizing and reallocation of licenses at the whim of the interim attorney-general and minister for communications will send very bad signs to the international investment community.

He says he intends to bring the matter up at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago this week