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Today, Fiji’s Ministry of Information sent a mass e-mail asking media outlets and journalists to send all news headlines to censors half an hour before stories are published, following soldiers being photographed removing anti-regime graffiti from public property. Fiji’s military-backed regime began requiring daily monitoring of all news stories last April.
New laws enacted in Fiji permit the state to seize broadcasting equipment, documents, force journalists to reveal their sources and fine media organisations up to $100,000. The media industry development decree enacted on 28 June also requires newspapers to be 90 per cent locally owned. This stipulation could force a number of publications to close. The new laws follow 2009 government legislation that legalised the arbitrary vetting of broadcast stations and newspaper offices to ensure their editorial line is conducive with that of the Fijian leader Commodore Bainimarama.
A draft decree by the Fiji’s military-backed regime calls for tighter control of the media and increased press censorship. The proposals, announced on Wednesday, would require daily monitoring of all news stories, as well as new restrictions on cross-media ownership. This would directly affect Fiji Times, one of the nation’s oldest and largest newspapers which is owned by the Australian company News Limited. Breaches of content regulation could result in media organisations, publishers and journalists being fined and imprisoned for up to five years.
Fijian media are facing huge pressure from the government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama. The constitution was suspended after the supreme court ruled on 9 April that the military-backed regime had taken power illegally.
Foreign journalists, including ABC’s award-winning correspondent Sean Dorney, have been expelled from the country, and domestic outlets are under surveillance, with government agents stationed in offices watching all communications.
The Public Emergency Regulations 2009, in force since the constitution was suspended, states:
– [A]ny broadcaster or publisher upon direction by the Permanent Secretary for Information must submit to him or her all material for broadcast or publication material before broadcast or publication.
– Any person or entity which fails in any way whatsoever to comply with the provisions of this section may be ordered by the Commissioner of Police or Officer Commanding upon advice from the Permanent Secretary for Information to cease all activities and operations.
You can read the 9 April Supreme Court decision exclusively here