Media decree amendment positive step, but challenges remain
An amendment to the Media Industry Development Decree in Fiji means individual journalists can no longer be fined for breaches, and is being seen as a positive step forward by the government, but challenges remain.
An amendment to the Media Industry Development Decree in Fiji means individual journalists can no longer be fined for breaches, and is being seen as a positive step forward by the government.
However, media representatives say challenges still exist, and concerns remain that media organisations, their editors and publishers, and corporate bodies are still liable to heavy monetary fines or imprisonment terms, or both.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
The president of the Fijian Media Association, Ricardo Morris, says the amendment is a step forward, as it means ordinary journalists don't have the prospects of fines hanging over their heads. He says however, editors and publishers will still feel the pressure.
RICARDO MORRIS: There's a possibility that that might have a knock on effect on the work that editors and publishers are ready to sanction. But we remain optimistic that that won't be the case and it's a first step in amending this decree or removing it completely, and so it is to be welcomed.
The NGO, the Fiji Citizen's Constitutional Forum, says the amendment does not resolve the issue of media censorship. It's programme manager, Ken Cokanasiga, says lifting fines on journalists is positive, but the status quo isn't going to change.
KEN COKANASIGA: Once that news hits that organisation to the publisher, to the editor, they will then have to tweak it so that it will suit government, that way they don't get into trouble. So that's why we're saying that it hasn't really changed much. Once it hits the tables of the editors and the media organisation, it still comes down to the same thing, self-censorship.
The editor in chief of the Fiji Times, Fred Wesley, says publishers and editors still face the challenge of the possibility of huge fines. But he says he hopes the amendment will be reflected by young journalists being allowed to do their work without fear.
FRED WESLEY: Obviously it's going to have an impact now on the kind of stories they can do now, more freely. In terms of my role, it doesn't change at all. The emphasis will continue to be on maintaining the integrity of the Fiji Times, the credibility of the paper, and moving forward, maintaining the believability factor, which is something we feel is very, very important.
Ricardo Morris says the amendment should also help young journalists that are new to the job.
RICARDO MORRIS: It will encourage them to improve their standards and improve the quality of their output and also encourage other young people to get into the media industry and help boost it and help return the vibrancy of the media in Fiji.
He says the Fiji Media Association will continue to push for reform and a review of media decree, but they are grateful with the first step of good will shown by the government.
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