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Singh Slams Sun, TV Practices

SUVA: Fiji's Daily Post today marked World Press Freedom Day with a news report and an editorial attacking two rival news organisations over alleged breaches of media ethics and business laws.

One organisation was also accused over breaching international copyright laws for downloading articles and pictures from the Internet for profit.

Complaints of improper practices and a breach of the Fair Trading Decree were filed with the Fair Trading Commission against the country's newest daily newspaper, the Fiji Sun, and Fiji Television Ltd.

But the newspaper apparently did not seek comments from the criticised rivals in its reports.

The editorial on 3 May 2000 said the Daily Post management's concern was over "unethical and illegal practices in the business end of media organisations."

It added: "It is hoped that these are promptly dealt with by the authorities under the fair trading and copyright laws. When the [media] industry keeps its house in order, it can fulfil its fundamental role in a democracy more effectively."

In its news report, the Daily Post quoted its general manager, Ranjit Singh, as saying: "Media freedom is as much about the right of media organisations to exist without any interference from external sources as it is with their right to co-exist with other media organisations without any internal disadvantages imposed by one on another.

"Here we have a case of a giant merchandiser C J Patel and Compay Ltd, which virtually monopolises major brands. Now it not only directly or indirectly has an interest in the Fiji Sun but also has an interest in an advertising agency, M & C Saatchi, which is an advertising placement agency.

"Major advertisers rely on this advertising company to impartially and neutrally place advertisements in local media. There is nan obvious conflict of interest here where the Daily Post faces unfair disadvantage over the Fiji Sun.

"Furthermore, C J Patel, being a major player in the market, is indulging in unethical practice in channelling advertising dollars contributed by brand manufacturers to organisations in which it has an interest. This is a clear breach of the Fair Trading Decree 1992 and we will expect the Ministry of Trade and Commerce to take immediate steps to curb such unfair practices," Singh said.

The Daily Post also said Singh also accused Fiji TV of having an exclusive stance in favour of the Fiji Sun to which it provides weekly TV programmes in advance.

The Daily Post's requests have been turned down on the grounds that Fiji TV has an exclusive arrangement with the Fiji Sun.

This has prevented the Daily Post from publishing weekly TV guides for its readers.

"It is ironical that while the exclusive licence to Fiji TV goes against all the intentions of the Fair Trading Decree and fair trading guidelines, Fiji TV is rubbing off this exclusivity in its dealings with selected media organisations only," Singh was quoted as saying.

"The other breach that we have is blatant disregard of the copyright laws by newspapers that illegally download articles and pictures from the Internet and sell them for commercial use," he said.

"The Daily Post has exclusive licence through the the Review group for Filmfare magazine, We pay for the use of of stories and pictures while our competitors make profit over this in less than ethical ways.

"We hope the audio visual clause of the Copyright Act 1999 that comes in force on July 1, 2000, will put a stop to such unethical practices."

Singh urged the authorities to take action to put a stop to illegal practices.

"Therefore, on the first World Media Freedom Day of the new millennium, I urge other media organisations to probe into their conscience and avoid imposing unfair restrictions, disadvantaged competition and unethical and illegal practices on other media organisations," he said.


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