Fiji set to clamp down on a free media

April 9th, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Most people are familiar with the saying two steps forward and one step back to describe a situation of slow progress.

That has been my hope for , that with a set date for elections in 2014, there would be some progress. But alas, the situation is looking more like one step forward and two steps back.

The Fijian Government has released a draft decree of proposed . It would make Fiji even more repressive in terms of media freedom.

NZPA report:

The regime of self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama yesterday issued a new media decree which Newspaper Publishers’ Association chief executive and New Zealand Media Freedom Committee secretary Tim Pankhurst described as “highly oppressive”. …

“It not only targets editors and their journalists. Any members of the public brave enough to express dissenting views are also in line for crippling fines, ill treatment and jail.”

Media outlets could be fined up to F$500,000 (about NZ$344,000) and individual journalists up to F$100,000 (NZ$69,000) and be jailed for up to five years if they failed to comply with the decree’s dictates.

Offences included such “crimes” as criticising the government and even failing to run bylines, Mr Pankhurst said. Foreign media ownership was also restricted.

The foreign media restrictions are an attempt to close down the Fiji Times. The Commodore hates them especially as they refuse to describe him as the Prime Minister, unless he actually wins an election to that post.

Some aspects from the media decree:

  • The Minister of Information personally appoints, and can sack at any time, the Director of the Media Industry Development Authority
  • One of the tasks of the MIDA is to ban any material which creates “communal discord”
  • MIDA will require all media organisations to be registered with them
  • Breaches of MIDA rules will carry a potential penalty of $500,000 for an organisation and $100,000 plus five years in jail for individuals.
  • MIDA has police like powers to search and seize documents from media organisations
  • Bans foreign ownership of over 10% in a media organisation, which will close down the Fiji Times.
  • Sets up a Tribunal with the Chair appointed by the Attorney-General to hear complaints, and which must act within “guidelines’ given by the Minister
  • The Minister can by order prohibit any broadcast or publication that may give rise to disorder, and can demand copies in advance
  • The decree explicitly forbids any Court hearing a challenge to not just the legality of this decree, but any decisions made by the Authority, Tribunal or Minister under this decree
  • The media code bans “hypnotism” and “demonstrating exorcism”!

Cafe Pacific has a good analysis of the decree.

Coup 4,5 report:

This is very broad so it will be interesting to see what kind of stories come under this criteria. Censors are already stopping the publication of stories which make the interim government look bad; eg water and power cuts and bad road conditions leading to pot holes.

This clause really means any stories which the interim regime doesn’t like because it exposes them or shows that they’re not doing a good job, is not in their interest and offends them as it creates communal discord.

The communal disorder clause is what will allow the Government to ban anything which criticises the Government, or if it gets published to imprison the journalist for up to five years.

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18 Responses to “Fiji set to clamp down on a free media”

  1. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    None of this is too different to the situation in China. Except we have a free trade agreement with China and sanctions against Fiji.

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  2. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    This development disturbs me. An independent media’s value is that it substantially raises the cost of bad behaviour for a government. What atrocity is Bainimarama planning for Fiji?

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  3. Ross Nixon (559 comments) says:

    Perhaps he just doesn’t like the extreme leftist, liberal and unpatriotic stance of your typical media commentator?

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  4. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    Ross, I was unaware Fox was in Fiji; thanks for pointing that out.

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  5. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    Are the people (the real people, not the left wing liberal journalists) happy with Bananarama?

    If so, why the hell is this any of our business?

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  6. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Mr Bainimarama is remarkably far-sighted in preparing the way for when the Chinese move in to Fiji (en route to you-know-where.)

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  7. gravedodger (1,566 comments) says:

    @ davidp Sums it up really
    How does this stack up against all the governments that Mr Locke gives unfettered support to.
    Its not as if it is a world first but at least those that need to know have it all there in the open and ignorance on the part of a journalist wont wash
    The Commodore may be right even if he is wrong and in Fiji politics it is just a wee bit confusing, however race based politics, corruption, nepotism, fraud and strength are all understandable to me.
    Why is our very own neighborhood dictator so much more of a problem than all the others. I would go to Fiji but I would have to be tightly trussed and drugged to go to Rhodesia and in my lifetime that country always held a greater appeal as a destination.

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  8. kiwitoffee (383 comments) says:

    Big Bruv

    Fijians are, I suspect, divided on Bainimarama. I imagine he has some support because the issues there are very complex.

    It’s our business because we could be next.

    Mind you, judging from the tidal wave of trash one sees in our media, perhaps it would be a blessing.

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  9. RRM (9,933 comments) says:

    SHOOT HIM.

    SHOOT HIS MATES.

    NO MORE PROBLEM.

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  10. Sean (301 comments) says:

    None of this is too different to the situation in Singapore. Except we have a free trade agreement with Singapore and sanctions against Fiji

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  11. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    RRM seems desperate to have the previous left wing corrupt government back in power, mind you, left wing and corruption seems to go hand in hand.

    [DPF: The previous Govt was not left wing. The Commodore on the other hand is supported to a large degree by the Fiji Labour Party]

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  12. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    Big Bruv

    Are the people… happy with Bananarama? If so, why the hell is this any of our business?

    Right, Bruv. Coup leader throws out the constitution and shuts down media? Whatever.

    But try selling cookies at Easter and BIG BRUV WILL F*** YOU UP.

    I heard even Jesus hates Big Bruv.

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  13. RKBee (1,344 comments) says:

    Fiji set to clamp down on a free media..

    Would that be a ji-clamp… thats gotta hurt.

    Don’t you just love it when one man can rule his own country on his own terms with his own army.

    I wonder if a Maori Army Officer in our dominantly Maori NZ Army could do the same here.

    Like Bainimarama who would stop him.

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  14. Poliwatch (335 comments) says:

    Big Bruv

    I had an interesting discussion with a moderate Fijian Indian (living in NZ since the second coup) last week about the situation. He was impressed with the changes that Bainimarama is making – sorting out all the shit. He doesn’t seem to side with either racial grouping and just gets on and does what he considers is best for Fiji. Justice can be a bit rough shod but so far is not seen to be unfairly dealt out. And the power base of the Fijian Chiefs is being broken.

    Obviously the views of my friend will be coming from family and friends in Fiji although he has also been back in the past 12 months.

    It would be interesting to get the view of more Fijians. Makes you think ….

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  15. MT_Tinman (3,205 comments) says:

    [DPF: The previous Govt was not left wing. The Commodore on the other hand is supported to a large degree by the Fiji Labour Party]

    The Fiji Labour party are, of course, the last legitimately democratically elected government of Fiji, being the govt. led by Timothy Bavadra, that the NZ govt. (The fat bastard’s) was too fucking scared to assist when he asked them.

    Frank is doing good, is one of the good guys and has the support of damned every Fijian resident who is not either a Chief or one of those favoured by the chiefs.

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  16. reid (16,523 comments) says:

    Bananarama reminds me more and more of a comedic refugee from a South American dictator sit-com from the fifties.

    I’ve always noted the Fijian Military has more than its fair share in the SAS and have wondered about the dangers.

    Perhaps he’s tending toward the Burmese model.

    I can’t help thinking the Chinese push into this region is having a lot to do with his attitude and the fact neither NZ nor Aus are doing anything about it is a worry.

    Hat Tip to BB for Bananarama – excellent.

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  17. big bruv (13,935 comments) says:

    Cheers DPF, I was not aware of that as I really could not care less what goes on in Fiji.

    The reason I was under the impression that the previous govt was left wing is down to one or two political commentators (Matthew Hooten included) who have said on more than one occasion that Bananarama went in to kick out the corrupt pinkos.

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  18. apetenaitini (1 comment) says:

    We all know that coup go in to kick someone out. All coup kick someone out because that person is in a stronger position to overcome the legitimate power. who are the verge of prosecuting him.
    Now in Fiji, to remove the existing leader it has go through the act of government.And that is how the Commandore knew that he was going to be remove with all the charges prereleased to him.
    Frank saw that He cannot fight legally so He drummed the corruption factor to convince the people of Fiji of his intrusion. Now He knows well that, there is file that He did not recover, which has all his misdemeanours in the highest order.
    Question has the Qarase been found gulity on any charges. The only thing Commodore is doing is trying to lure in judges that will solidify his illegitimacy.
    Sitiveni Rabuka was under survilliance from the UN when he made the coup but VB was the immediate elected government tha his boss..

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