AG defends media freedom as Koya accuses media of biased reporting

AG defends media freedom as Koya accuses media of biased reporting

By Rashika Kumar
Saturday 25/05/2024
Attorney General Siromi Turaga and FijiFirst MP Faiyaz Koya. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Attorney General Siromi Turaga stresses that the media is free after FijiFirst MP Faiyaz Koya accused the media of being biased when reporting on the Parliamentary Emoluments Committee report earlier this week.

Turaga highlighted this while responding to Koya’s end of the week statement in Parliament on the importance of transparency, accountability and judicial independence in good governance and adherence to the rule of law before the debate on the motion to change the salaries and allowances of a number of executive offices including those of Members of Parliament,

He says transparency and accountability are noble principles for any democratic nation to uphold and promote but the government is measured by what you do and not what you preach.

He says two weeks ago he was invited by the Fijian Media Association for International Press Freedom Day celebrations and he was shocked to know that he is the first cabinet minister to attend their function after 16 years.

The Attorney General says this means there was no media freedom in the last 16 years and the government brought the light and gone are the days people were suppressed.

While highlighting Minister For Lands Filimoni Vosarogo’s term as the Director for Legal Aid and how his contract was not renewed and how he as a former Magistrate was critised by the former Attorney General for a decision he made and the appeal hearing was heard the very next day, Turaga says people can now see that organisations operate independently.

He says a former DPP who was a Sri Lankan and was celebrating her birthday, was given a letter to leave the next day while another Sri Lankan was also a woman was removed from her role as the Chief Registrar and replaced by Mohammed Saneem.

He asks why was Saneem appointed when there were more senior, matured lawyers than him and does he have any connection with the former Attorney General and was he destined to be a Permanent Secretary and later the Supervisor of Elections.

He says the Opposition is talking about accountability and while pointing out Section 121 of the 2013 Constitution on Accountability and Transparency Commission, Turaga asks where is the Commission.

He says he does not appear before the Fiji Law Society and lectures every lawyer and respects them.

The Attorney General says there is a lot of work to be done and we must acknowledge that the country has gone through the dark ages and the system was toxic and it needs to be changed and that change came on the 24th of December in 2022.

Meanwhile, Koya says transparency and accountability are demanded by the law and our democracy needs to ensure that the three arms of government remain completely independent.

He says they cannot allow for the blurring of the lines for any reason even especially if it is politically motivated or for other reasons. He further says that people need to understand that government is a representative of and for the people and what they do in Parliament and what transpires in a judiciary or Ministry is the right of the people to know.

The MP says the media also plays a key role to holding governments accountable and to ensure transparency.

He says, on Thursday some media were bringing something that was tabled that was only half set out and that is not very unbiased.

Koya says these particular outlets brought something that was tabled that is causing much debate in the nation and they debated it in Parliament yesterday.

He says unbiased reporting is a must where true accountability and transparency can flourish.

He says the media should not half read it, put out something just as a piece and blame something about it and pointed out that that particular report was independent.

The report was tabled in Parliament and is a public document which includes all the party submissions on the salary increases.

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