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FIJI: Repúblika editor says journalists still face many challenges


Republika editor Ricardo Morris during the launch of Repúblika in 2012. Image: Jone Luvenitoga/Fiji Times

Friday, October 10, 2014

Item: 9009

AUCKLAND (Radio New Zealand International / Pacific Media Watch): The editor of Fiji's Repúblika magazine and president of the Fijian Media Association says Fiji journalists will have to "relearn" how to hold those in power accountable, following eight years of censorship by the former military regime.

In an interview with Radio New Zealand International yesterday, Ricardo Morris said many Fijian journalists had only ever worked under the restrictions of a military decree, and would have to be shown how to practise journalism freely.

However, Morris cautioned that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who won the recent election, was responsible for putting in the draconian military Media Decree and so change may not come soon.

"I mean there has been a push for some sections to be, you know, modified looked into again and amended. But I think on the whole, there is, that decree will remain and that is what we will have to work with," Morris told RNZI.

He said journalists would have to find room to work within the decree.

At least the reopening of Parliament for the first time in eight years would open up space for journalists to report critically.

"So the fact that you can report, you know, blunt criticisms against an opponent...will probably be surprising for a lot of journalists. But I think when they, once they get the hang of it, things should start to improve," Morris said.

The Media Decree empowers the authorities under the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) to censor material that is considered threatening to the "public interest" or "order". MIDA can also penalise journalists and editors who "publish content considered unsuitable".

The decree also prohibits the media from publishing anything that could be seen as against the public interest, national interest "or which offends against good taste and decency".

Journalists can be fined $100,000 and sentenced to two years in prison if they breach these rules.

 Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie has outlined a case for the repeal of the draconian Fiji media decree in the wake of the general election.

Reporters without Borders and the PMC last month made a joint submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, calling on Fiji to repeal its Media Decree.

 

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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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