Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says a media organisation may circumvent the current Media Act by allowing a foreigner or foreign company to carry out it’s operations through a side arrangement or make decisions which can actually mean anything from what is published, broadcast, who is hired and who is financed.
While tabling the Media Industry Development (Budget Amendment) Bill 2022, Sayed-Khaiyum says they understand this is already happening with an organisation in Fiji where they are circumventing the foreign ownership.
Section 38 of the Media Act provides that in the case of a company, all directors of a media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. In the case of any other legal entity, the person or persons with analogous powers in a media organisation, must also be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.
Up to 10 percent of the beneficial ownership or interest in the nature of ownership of a media organisation is allowed for any foreign person holding such shares or interests while 90 percent of any beneficial ownership of shares or any other interest of the media organisation must be owned by Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.
The Bill amends the Act to prohibit a media organisation from entering into any agreement which allows any other person from managing the affairs or operations of the media organisation without the prior approval of the Authority.
It says this would ensure that control of a media organisation remains with the media organisation.
The Bill amends the Act to ensure that those who are directly in charge of a media organisation and its operations are shielded from any outside influence that may, by formal agreement or other arrangement, essentially take over or control the provision of services.
These services deal with the day-to-day operations of the media organisation including its finances, staffing, productions or publications.
The Bill also amends the Act to require a media organisation to notify the Authority where any such agreement exists and to provide details of the agreement in order to verify and ensure that the media organisation’s operations are not in any way unduly influenced.
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