4 May 2017

Fiji lawyer says bill has no legal equivalent worldwide

6:28 am on 4 May 2017

A Fiji lawyer says he can find no legal equivalent in any democratic country of a bill that could prevent criticism of parliament.

Fiji flag flies on the rooftop of parliament

Photo: RNZI/ Sally Round

Submissions are open on the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, clause 24 of which proposes penalties for defaming, demeaning or undermining the sanctity of parliament.

The lawyer, Richard Naidu, said the clause could restrict a fundamental democratic right.

"In principle there shouldn't be any provision that restricts people from commenting adversely on parliamentarians or on the institution, because if it's not delivering to the taxpayers who pay it, it seems to me that parliamentarians should be able to hear about that," said Mr Naidu.

"It's virtually unheard of, I think, that people are prevented by the law from robustly criticising parliament."

"I certainly haven't found any provision in the Commonwealth or any country that calls itself a democracy that has a similar provision to clause 24."

Mr Naidu said people would fall silent if clause 24 is enacted.

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