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New Media Regulation Decree Planned

* Pacific Media Watch Online:

SUVA: Fiji's military-backed interim administration will proceed with plans for a decree covering media regulation covering print media and broadcasting, according to news reports.

Fiji Television on 15 August 2000 and the Fiji Times on August 16 reported that the interim cabinet established last month after the May 19 insurrection deposed the elected government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry planned a media decree.

The proposed decree was said to follow a 1998 Thomson Foundation report which influenced media policy for both the previous Sitiveni Rabuka and Chaudhry governments.

According to the Fiji Times, the new media decree would cover issues such as:

* The "establishment" of the Fiji Media Council.

* The Fiji Media Code of Practice.

* Guidelines in cross-media ownership.

* "Qualitative aspects" of both the print and broadcasting media.

The new media would also empower a proposed "independent" Fiji Media Council to regulate the content and conduct of the print and broadcast media according to a Code of Practice, the Fiji Times reported.

"This is aimed at protecting what cabinet considers 'reasonable and justifiable media freedom'," the paper said.

"The council will be funded by its media industry members and will have an independent chairman, unconnected with the media industry.

"Complaints from members of the public will be heard by a committee that will be advised by working journalists.

"Cabinet is also looking at developing specific legislation with regards to newspapers and the Fiji Broadcasting [Corporation].

"The Ministry of Information and Communication will continue with consultations towards the development of the media decree and other related legislation."

* An independent Media Council already exists in the Fiji Islands and it has an independent complaints committee. Member media organisations include The Fiji Times group, Associated Media (The Review and FijiLive), Communications Fiji Ltd, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Fiji Television Ltd, Islands Business International Ltd, and Fiji's Daily Post. It has an equal number of lay members and is chaired by an independent chair, Daryl Tarte.

In October 1999, the council released its revised "General Media Code of Ethics and Practice".


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