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Panpa Bulletin : May 2010
www.panpa.org.au 8 | The PANPA Bulletin | MAY 2010 "It would seem that unless there is modification of this edict, it will make the running of any media organisation highly dangerous both financially and legally," he said. The decree also outlines that along with limitations on foreign media ownership, positions of power within media companies must also be held by Fijian citizens. "In every media organisation", Part 7, 36 (a) of the draft media de- cree states, "all directors and ... any person or persons holding analogous powers shall respectively be citizens of Fiji permanently residing in Fiji." Anne Fussell, a British citizen, is the managing editor of the Fiji Times. If the draft decree is passed, employment for Ms Fussell and pos- sibly the staff at the Fiji Times may change radically. The consultation process for the decree included representatives from print, radio and television compa- nies. However, they were only given two and a half hours to look over the draft decree before they had to make their submissions. Netani Rika, editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times, said that during the consultation process attendees were led to believe that direct censorship from government officials would end. However, he said the Fiji Times made submissions regarding the ex- tortionate level of fines for individual journalists and the limits to foreign ownership. Mr Colless noted the section of the decree which requires all stories to carry a journalist by-line was particu- larly insidious. "Journalist usually want by-lines as it is a badge of honour, but this section of the decree reminds Fijian journal- ists that they are being watched very carefully," he said. Radio Fiji reported that during the consultation process there was outcry at the draconian fines, noting that F$500,000 for certain offences could easily put Fijian media organisations out of business. There has also been dismay at the powers of the pro- posed Media Tribunal. The Tribunal will hear and determine complaints made against media organisations and then impose fines and sanctions. Currently there is no way for media bodies to seek appeal against the Tribunal's decision. Mr Colless concluded: "In a ba- nana republic, like Zimbabwe, or communist Russia I have never see this type of dictum, even in China, where they are definitely not averse to putting strong holds on the press. It's spooky stuff. Though it's not surprising, the Fijian government has been running right off the rails. Anything can happen." The decree will pass as soon as the interim government decides it is ready. Any interested parties can view the Fijian draft media decree on the PANPA website. Did you miss it? PANPA Ad Awards THE Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association was close to announcing win- ners of the 2010 Ad Awards as The Bulletin went to press. More than 220 entries were received this year. They were judged by 30 colleagues from the fields of advertising, technology, marketing, sales consultancy, manage- ment consultancy and creative design. Winners will be announced on April 27. Digital bonanza KEY editorial software supplier Atex has said it doubled its digital sales and con- tinued to grow profits for a fifth succes- sive year. A developer of Web content manage- ment and advertising systems, it claimed to have outsold its competition 5:1 with sales of the Atex Web CMS, which ac- counted for 40 percent of the company's new orders. Atex promised to invest more than US$18 million in product development to reduce cost of technology ownership and help cus- tomers generate new digital revenues. Price war BRITAIN'S Financial Times has published an article suggesting News Corp is start- ing an advertising price war with the New York Times. "Sharp discounts" are being offered against NYT pricing before the Wall St Journal launches its New York edition, claims the FT. SPH pushes profit SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) reported very strong second quarterly results. Net profit for the three months ending February 28 equalled $113.3 million which is up from $87 million a year back. Fiji Sun CEO Peter Lomas is a Fijian citizen yet many Fiji Sun board members are foreign citizens and face losing their positions under the new regulations Media decree 'draconian' FIJI'S draft media decree is dra- conian and punitive and will fail as a development communication model. Many aspects of the draft law are deeply disturbing and the harsh penalties for editors and journalists who fall foul of the proposed rules will curb any hope of a return to an independent Fourth Estate. This will be a blow to media freedom throughout the Pacific and provide a damaging precedent for other politicians in the region keen to rein in a free press. The draft Media Industry De- velopment Decree 2010 provides for the establishment of a Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) to "encourage, promote and facilitate" news media organisations and services at a "high standard" and a statutory Media Tribunal to judge complaints against media. The decree contains a new provi- sion restricting foreign ownership to 10 per cent of a media organisation and directorships to Fiji citizens who have been residing in the country for five of the past seven years, and nine of the past 12 months. This is clearly a vindictive section aimed at crippling the Fiji Times, the country's largest and most influential newspaper, which is owned by News Ltd. The regime wants to put the newspa- per out of business, or at least effectively seize control and muzzle its independ- ent stance -- seen by the military-backed government as "anti-Fiji". While international responses have focused on the serious impact for the Fiji Times group, it will also hit the other two dailies -- the strug- gling Fiji Daily Post, which has 80 per cent Australian ownership, and the Fiji Sun, which has taken a more "pro-Fiji" (i.e the regime) line than the Times but has some expatriate directors. Other concerns about the draft law include: Too much power being vested in the ministerial-appointed director of the MIDA and chairman of the Media Tribunal. Both agencies need wider community representa- tion and independence. • The power to investigate suspected breaches of the decree and to search and seize documents and computer equipment (albeit with a warrant). This would stifle any investigative journalism, although there has been little of that since the 2006 coup. A requirement that all news reports publish a "byline" identifying the author. An opportunity for vindic- tive reprisals from a vengeful dic- tatorship. The power to punish media organi- sations guilty of an offence under the decree with a fine of up to F$500,000, and individual editors and journalists with a fine of up to F$100,000 or a maximum jail term of five years. This is so intimidat- ing that many of Fiji's better and more experienced journalists will be tempted to leave Fiji if they can -- and there has been a steady exo- dus of media people ever since the first two coups in 1987 -- or discour- • • • age young people from entering the profession. The power to proactively investi- gate a media organisation without a public complaint being filed. This opens the door to vindictive abuse in a climate of dictatorship and the singling out of media organisations that do not toe the regime line. There is a case to be made for bet- ter engagement by media on national development issues, but this should be achieved through more journal- ism training and education and more support for the country's journalism schools and training institutions, such as the University of the South Pacific. All previous governments in Fiji -- not just the current regime -- have lambasted the media ever since independence, but have provided precious little support for training and education for the industry. A government cannot legislate people's minds. Much more can be achieved by freeing up the media environment, backing off from cen- sorship and engaging with the media in a more cooperative manner. To get its own side of the story across, the Fiji regime should estab- • lish a national news agency like many developing countries do and let the media get on with its job of reporting unfettered in the public interest. Codes of ethics previously ad- ministered by the self-regulatory Fiji Media Council have been incorpo- rated into the draft decree as statu- tory schedules. But it is not yet clear what future role the council would have as the authority and tribunal would over- take its powers. While in a democracy, a media development authority could have merits -- especially if it genuinely supported stronger training and education programmes -- in a dicta- torship it is dangerous. This smacks of blatant and insidious control. With a decree like this in place in Fiji, who needs censorship? David Robie Dr David Robie is an associate professor in AUT University's School of Communication Studies and director of the Pacific Media Centre. He is a former head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. Regime muzzles media CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Immediately after censorship began in 2009, the Fiji Times ran these pages as an illustration of the severe censorship. They stopped the practice after threats from the Fijian government This is clearly vindictive . . . aimed at Fiji Times" " AUT