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FIJI: World Press Freedom Day - three perspectives


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Item: 7426

SUVA: Two reputable NGOs in Fiji - ECREA and the CCF - made press statements on the UN World Press Freedom Day - neither of which was published in the local media, but  the media did publish a statement by the Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary of Information, Setaita Natai, that acknowledged the world event.  

Given that —other than calling for the Public Emergency Regulations (PE) to be lifted— the NGOs agreed with Natai’s and the government position, it is sad the media lacked the nerve  to publish their views.

This is an abbreviation of the three statements:
 
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) expressed general concern “about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals” and said it had written to the PM several times since June 2010 asking that PER , which has now been extended 25 times, be lifted.

“While the PER gives the Permanent Secretary of Information [the authority]  to generally control broadcasts or publications that may give rise to disorder and which may result in a breach of the peace, it is also the duty and responsibility of media organizations to work collectively to ensure that the Freedom of the Media is fully restored as soon as possible by convincing the State that reporting and commentaries will be confined within the requirements of the Media Decree.”

ECREA (Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education & Advocacy)  said that “as an organisation that supports Social Justice  …  ECREA is certain that a free press is vital in bringing a more cohesive, dynamic and vibrant nation. Freedom of the Press and responsible reporting goes hand in hand to bring about changes and development.

 “While the press is under a lot of pressure taking into account the context of the Fiji media environment, it is imperative to build partnerships with censors and foster dialogue, reconciliation between them and also to Fiji as a nation. “  ECREA also called for the PER to  be lifted.

“Dialogue is the way forward for all partners in order to bring a more understanding and light to the underlying issues confronting Fiji at the moment. The Fiji media continues to play a critical role in highlighting these issues and appropriate responses from policy right down grassroots level.”

Setaita Natai (Ministry of Information) said censorship had brought about significant improvements in the balance between media freedom and responsibility. She said the PM had always made it clear that journalists, editors and even media organisations do not need to be pro-government but must be pro-Fiji.

In her fuller release (No:935/MOI), not published by the media, she said: “If you go into the newsrooms, there is very little censorship and this has brought about some changes to the contents of articles ... Government knows everyone wants freedom of the press but the information published needs to be presented in a fair, balanced and accurate manner." - Croz Walsh's Fiji Blog: Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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