Media Personnel with their cameras. [File Photo]
A report by Reporters Without Borders, has ranked Fiji 102 in its media freedom index, and says journalists are often subjected to intimidation or even imprisonment when overly critical of the government.
A report on Radio New Zealand earlier today says Fiji is the worst place in the Pacific for journalists, citing the intimidation and imprisonment part of the report.
Minister for Communications, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says he is flabbergasted to hear about journalists being sent to prison.
“This is what is happening, you have organizations from New Zealand, Radio New Zealand is notorious for this, and I don’t know who writes their stories. They write these things with so much impunity, they really do not care for the truth. They have a particular narrative they want told, obviously aided, and abetted by members of the Opposition. The fact is no journalist has been imprisoned, which journalist please show me, even say in the past two and a half years, during the pandemic when there were so much economic disruptions, which journalist was imprisoned.”
Meanwhile, the Fijian Media Association says, it does not endorse any report it has not participated in but agrees with certain statements within the RSF report, particularly on the use of legislation such as the MIDA Act to criminalize and impose heavy fines on media organizations or editors.
FMA General Secretary, Stanley Simpson says while journalists are under various pressures, the Fijian media remains bold and thriving and committed to fulfilling its role.
He says intimidations do occur from various sides of the political divide – both government and opposition and the report is not correct about journalists being imprisoned.
Simpson says no imprisonment of journalists has happened in the last decade although there have been instances of journalists being questioned over their reports, and cases of media organizations and editors being taken to court.
The veteran journalists says the report is another clear reminder to the Government to review and remove sections in the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) act that imposes harsh penalties on the media.
Simpson says fines of to $100,000 for media organizations or in the case of a publisher or editor a fine up to $25,000, or up to two years imprisonment for anything against the public interest, is harsh.
He says the fines are too excessive and designed to be vindictive and punish the media rather than encourage better reporting standards and be corrective and says media organisations in Fiji are almost unanimous in seeking the removal of the harsh fines and penalties.