Thursday, 8 April 2010

Death by decree for media freedom in Fiji, says PFF

Rarotonga, Cook Islands -- A decree aimed at replacing censorship and human rights restrictions in Fiji will deal a death-blow to freedoms of speech if not changed, says regional watchdog PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.

“The draft decree replaces newsroom censorship with something far more obvious and dangerous,” says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.
“Saying censorship will no longer exist is misleading, because with this decree there isn’t a need for newsroom censors. Overly heavy fines and punishments thrown at those who don’t tow an arbitrary line will mean no independent newsrooms to censor.
“The entire media system will only say what the regime wants to hear,” says Laumaea.
“Our only hope is that media feedback into the so-called 'consultations' this week is seriously taken into account and impacts on the final form of the decree,” he says.
PFF co-chair Monica Miller says regional agencies and development partners involved in human rights and media development must not stay silent on the repression in Fiji.
“Fiji is a hub for regional agencies involved in human rights and freedom of information work. They can all  do their part to leave the regime and other Pacific nations in no doubt about the massive impacts on human rights and governance of this media decree.”
“Openly or not, development partners must support all parts of Fiji media and other elements of society who believe free speech and freedom of expression are essential conditions of progressive governance.”
“As well, concerns from the Fiji Times on economic impacts of the media decree can hardly be surprising,” says Miller.
“It’s not rocket science.  Restrictions on investment potential via foreign ownership, coupled with exhorbitant fines for those who upset the regime-controlled media authority, puts the livelihoods of working journalists and their families at risk.”--ENDS
PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea | Sunday Chronicle Newspaper | Papua New Guinea
Mobile: 675-684 5168 | Office: 675-321-7040 | Email:

PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller | KHJ Radio | American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197 | Office 684 633-7793 | Email:

The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.
We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance. In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

FIJI: Regime must open up time window on draft media decree -- PFF

Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS, --A two and a half hour time window for Fiji's media to have their say on their industry's future threatens the credibility of today's draft media decree 'consultations'. Regional media freedom watchdog, the Pacific Freedom Forum says it's not too late for those behind the decree to allow more time for feedback.
“We had seen a sign of hope when the regime lifted its ban on allowing the Fiji Times and Fiji TV to participate,” says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of PNG.
“But a two and a half hour time frame shoots your own process in the foot. It blocks off any meaningful input and raises the question of whether Fiji media houses should even bother to turn up. If you cannot truly participate and belong to a meeting to discuss your future, who really benefits from you being there?”
“We strongly urge the leadership to open up the time window for feedback and salvage the process from ridicule.”
The draft media decree is planned to replace regime controls on freedom of speech , expression and the right to assembly in Fiji since the abrogation of the Constitution a year ago this month.
Interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has told journalists the decree draft establishes a Media Industry Development Authority , an ‘independent’ Media Tribunal with the power to rule on breaches, a Television Programme Classification Code , provisions pertaining to cross-media ownership, a media code of standards including a Code of Ethics and Practice, and a General code of practice for Advertisements including advertising to children.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Tonga’s leaders must step up on disclosure over Ashika report: PFF

Rarotonga, Cook Islands— Tonga’s Minister of Information and Communications Eseta Fusitua should consider a sincere apology to grieving families over her botched handling of the release of the official report into the Ashika Tragedy. 74 passengers, including all the women and children passengers, died when the ferry sank off the coast of Tongatapu on August 5, 2009.
According to news reports, Fusitua called a pre-Easter Press Conference to discuss the much awaited findings. Instead she used the time to talk about a set of ‘protocols’ which means Tongans won’t get the report via official channels until after Easter, late this week or early next. Ironically, as she was holding back her copy from Tongan journalists, they had already joined the rest of the world downloading the report from the internet.
“Any high-level Pacific leader holding the communications and information portfolio should have sought advice on how to best proceed with a report of this magnitude, and the overwhelming level of public interest in the results.
Sadly, we’ve just witnessed another avoidable sadness for the families of those who died. These people have just spent their first Easter without their loved ones, their lives still on hold despite the closure this report now offers them,”
says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea.
“This was a preventable maritime tragedy, and has repercussions for Tonga’s elected and appointed leadership. A process which leaves itself open to failure because everyone with an interest and an internet connection already has the report is hardly effective. It fosters a perception that government is acting in its own self-interest and delaying its own response and public discussion.”

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Fiji: PFF welcomes regime lifting of media ban, calls for open dialogue

Removal of a ban on the two biggest media organisations in Fiji from taking part in regime-led consultations affecting the future of media and censorship there is welcome news, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"It's early days yet, but removal of the ban is the first sign of progress towards direct conversations between the regime and all media organisations in Fiji,"
 says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.
It is almost a year since the abrogation of the Fiji Constitution last April in a move which undermined free speech, free expression and the right to freedom of assembly. Interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, told Fiji's media it has been decided to drop a ban involving key media outlets the Fiji Times and Fiji TV in discussions over a proposed media decree. The lifting of the ban now gives the two outlets just over a week to read the proposed decree and prepare their inputs for tabling during the consultations.