29 Jun 2010

Imposing media decree, Fiji reneges on ending censorship

1:25 pm on 29 June 2010

The Fiji interim government has reneged on its repeatedly stated promise to end censorship once its Media Decree was enacted.

The decree has been published but the interim government says its emergency provisions will continue to be in place.

As part of the decree's provisions, foreign ownership of media outlets is limited to 10 percent.

The attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says the Australian-owned Fiji Times newspaper has three months to comply or be forced to shut down.

"Well the media decree sets out and addresses a whole lot of areas pertaining to the media industry. For example it deals with issues of cross ownership of media, which lots of countries have rules on. We've never had any such a law on that. And various policies that haven't exactly been adhered to. And we've got rules pertaining to foreign ownership of media."

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

The Australian foreign minister, Stephen Smith, says imposing a minimum 90 percent local ownership level on media outlets will limit investment in Fiji.

Mr Smith says the decision was another example of the Fiji military government impinging on the democratic rights of its people.

He says it will have a significant adverse influence on Fiji's economy.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says the Fiji media decree formalises repressive government control of the media.

The organisation's executive director, Joel Simon, calls on the interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, to repeal this decree and cease restricting news content.

He says Mr Bainimarama took power promising a return to democracy, but his actions are increasingly dictatorial.