Foreign media restricted from taking training workshops in Fiji
Fiji's Media Industry Development Authority is now restricting all international media outlets from conducting workshops or training in Fiji.
Fiji's Media Industry Development Authority, or MIDA, has restricted international media from conducting workshops locally on issues including media freedom, democracy, human rights and the election without first seeking the Authority's approval.
Under the new measure, all overseas media, freelancers and communications workers, including those associated with NGOs, will have to be registered.
Mary Baines reports:
The new chair of the Authority, Aswin Raj says a foreign entity should not be able to come into Fiji and conduct workshops without its permission.
ASWIN RAJ: When you are making comments very, very specific to a country and its government and its people. I think the Authority needs to be informed. The whole sort of kind of willy-nilly, going in making random statements, walking away is something I want to put tabs on. I'm particularly concerned about parachute journalism, when journalists just come in for five minutes without really entering the protocols of the place.
Mr Raj says foreign media outlets making unbalanced claims about Fiji should be held to account, and report in a fair, balanced and accurate way.
ASWIN RAJ: The point is that one needs to be a lot more responsible. I think the whole romantic notion of freedom and unrestricted freedom without any sense of responsibility is something which is deeply problematic.
MIDA is organising its own workshops on the constitution, media decree, election and self-regulation for all Fijian media outlets in November and December. The Fiji Regional Co-ordinator of the journalist's network Pacific Freedom Forum, Ricardo Morris, says people are questioning how they can extend the regulation to foreign media doing training. But he says Fiji journalists and media operators have dealt with a different media environment than elsewhere for some time, and from MIDA's perspective it's time to include everyone. He says MIDA is exercising the power given to it under the Media Decree of 2010.
RICHARD MORRIS: The powers of the Media Industry Development Authority have always been outlined in the Media Decree. But now they have a new and full-time director in place, and they have a chairman back in the seat, things to be moving along and the Authority seems to be exercising this power that it's been given.
The Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, or PACMAS, which has carried out media workshops in Fiji in the past, would not comment on the issue. Its program manager, Francis Herman, says it has not received details from MIDA directly. A local media NGO which advocates for freedom of expression and communication, Fiji Media Watch, says it does not believe it needs to be registered. Its Executive Director, Agatha Ferei, says the group intends to continue running workshops throughout the country to prepare for next year's election.
AGATHA FEREI: Our workshops, our visits to the communities, will continue and we will advocate for freedom of expression and opinion by citizens. At the same time we will try, we will not try, but promote, the independence of reporters, to be able to report independently what they feel or think needs to be reported to people.
Ms Ferei says the media decree, which includes jail terms and fines, is a threat to journalists and she hopes it can be reviewed. She says a fully independent body made up of media professionals should be formed to regulate the media, without any state intervention.
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