The Fiji Labour Party condemns the promulgation of the Television Amendment Decree No 52 of 2012 as yet another attempt by the regime to gag the media and restrict freedom of expression.
The Decree which came into effect last Thursday empowers the Minister to revoke or vary a television license if the licensee is found to have breached the Media Code of Ethics under the Media Industry Development Decree.
The Decree, further, prohibits the matter to be taken to any Court, Tribunal or Commission for adjudication, thereby, denying the licensee the right to redress or justice.
The FLP finds this absolutely abhorrent. “This shows that Fiji is regressing further into being an authoritarian State rather than moving towards democracy as promised by the regime,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
There are a number of issues that arise from the Decree itself:
- The Decree states “If a licensee is found to have breached the Media Code of Ethics and Practice …”. Who decides that the media code of ethics has been breached? Is it the Minister who will be the sole arbiter?
- And what is the need for Decree 52 when an independent Tribunal under the Media Industry Development Decree has already been set up to deal with any breaches of the media Code of ethics?
Justice and fair play demand that an aggrieved party must have the right to seek legal redress against any action or policy of the State. Yet, the people of Fiji are being increasingly and systemically denied this fundamental right by a regime that does not hesitate to use ‘blackmailing’ tactics to silence all opposition by gagging the media.
What is it afraid of? Two weeks ago, Fiji TV was, reportedly, warned by the regime’s Attorney General that its licence may not be renewed because it had given coverage to interviews with former Prime Ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry. It was told that its news broadcast would be closely monitored by the regime during the month.
It is of concern that Fiji TV’s licence due to expire this week-end, has reportedly still not been renewed.
FLP questions the motive behind the promulgation of this Decree at this point in time when Fiji is poised to embark on the so-called constitutional process to restore democratic rule via general elections.
It is obvious that despite repeated assurances by the regime, the process is still highly restrictive in terms of freedom of expression and a free and independent media. The local media continues to deny fair coverage to statements issued by political parties. In most cases, they are simply not published or broadcast.
How can the process be said to be inclusive and participatory if the views of political parties and their leaders are prevented from getting through to the people?
The conditions laid down by the Police for meetings of political parties point clearly to Fiji being a police state.
The regime, it seems, is consumed by fears of its own unpopularity – hence all these restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression!