The Fijian Media Association in very strong terms is calling on the coalition government to completely repeal the Fiji Media Industry Development Act and have fresh consultations on a new proposed document, if any.
While speaking on behalf of about 150 media workers during a consultation on the draft Media Bill, Communications Fiji Limited’s News Director and FMA Executive, Vijay Narayan says the media workers have had to live with this law that was forced through in the form of a Media Decree in 2010 after a few hours of ‘consultations’.
He says the workers in the industry have suffered a lot and have been facing the pointed end of the spear on a daily basis.
Narayan also says they need investment and growth so they can do more.
He says with this new draft, they understand that the content regulation is completely out however, the restrictions on overseas investment and cross media also stunts their growth as media workers.
Narayan says there is also a real fear because of the fact that legislating media registration will be controlled by politicians and there can be a huge risk of de-registration if any government is unhappy with the news reporting of a media entity.
The FMA Executive says the previous government that took the Fiji Times to court did not take issues through the Media Industry Development Act but through various laws already in place.
He says there are different rules that have already been tested and have been used.
On cross media, Narayan says they as media workers agree that there should be a level playing field that this government preached about and all the industry players agree that there should be no cross media laws.
He asks why should there be a law that maintains an uneven playing field.
Prominent lawyer Richard Naidu who says that he had some input in the draft Media Bill says all aspects in terms of the news media should be opened up.
He says the Defamation Act which is now 50 years old needs comprehensive review and it does not give enough latitude to journalists to go out and demand accountability from public officials.
Naidu says Crimes Act, issues of online safety and privacy need to go through a much wider consultation.
He says the point has been made that if you allow foreign ownership, you get better investment and better input and possibly a stronger news media but on the other hand, not all foreign ownership is benign and they need to be a bit more careful about what they wish for.
Naidu says the priority in this Bill was to get rid of all the content regulation in the Act and that is done and he hopes that the concerns of the journalists are addressed as there is no Media Tribunal and Media Industry Development Authority.
He says he agrees with media organisations that the idea to restore the Media Council is a great thing and it should be media driven and government should not have a real role in it.
He says the problem with going to the Media Council previously was that if someone went to them, they waived their legal rights and could not go to court.
Naidu says bringing this process back is a good thing and deals with the issue of content.
He says a valid view point has also been raised about registration.
The Fijian media industry with the FMA have called on the coalition government to repeal the Act and if there is a need for another law, then it should go through consultation and due processes.
You can watch the videos of the public consultations on the Draft Media Bill on our website, fijivillage.
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