(G) Media Decree: Australian Comments Exaggerated

The reported comments of Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith on Fiji’s Media Industry Development Decree is grossly exaggerated and taken out of context, says the Permanent Secretary for Information, Ms Sharon Smith-Johns.

 The Decree was widely discussed and views of all concerned have been taken on board.

“ It’s most unfair that both News Limited and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Australia, have been selectively highlighting issues, and in the process sensationalizing them.”

The Media decree is huge step forward for the media industry of the country.

“ For the first time we have a legislation that is all encompassing (the media journalists and consumers), it’s actually empowering the people of Fiji in ensuring that their views are heard,” Ms Smith-Johns said.

The new Decree will have a positive impact on the economy, human rights, good governance and access to accurate information.

“In fact we have had encouraging response from the business communities and the Media outlets.”

Fiji has a vibrant and growing Media Industry, in print, broadcast and the new media with potential for investment.

“ Currently  there are 14 plus media outlets, not including internet. Whilst the Fiji Times claims to be a vital source of independent news, so are the other media outlets,” Ms Smith-Johns said.

The New Media Decree is similar to Media Legislations in Australia, the United States and Singapore where there is control on Foreign Owners, Cross Media Ownership, social obligations in terms of content, media codes and complaints authority.

“ This brings to mind the Rupert Murdoch case, where he had to forego his Australian Citizenship in order to retain his interest in the United States.”

Mr Hartigan's comments that the media decree is designed to force them out of the country is absolutely incorrect, the decree only talks about foreign ownership, and if the Fiji Times wants to continue they must change their ownership, we do not want to see the Fiji Times close, that is simply not the issue.

Ms Smith-Johns said Government needs the media as much as the media looks up to Government for information on a whole range of issues that directly impacts on the people and country of Fiji.  It is important that we move from here in good faith, mutual trust and with a common objective of providing information to the people so they can make informed decisions.


Comments are an important part of this blog.
From a reader .. "Sitting here in Oz this morning, with the Fiji Times saga the top story on ABC TV, you get the feeling this is easily the biggest mistake Frank has made. The media is full of talk of the seizing of a foreign business asset, the impact that will have on foreign investment and the loss of jobs in Fiji. News Limited is openly castigating the Australian Government for not doing enough to confront the regime. Which means that on the eve of a federal election in which it will be desperate for the support of Murdoch newspapers, News is waving its own big stick at the government. So it seems inevitable that Australian pressure on Fiji will be revved up ..." Click on "Comments" at the bottom of the previous post to read in full, with other comments.


Alter ego said…
"It's most unfair that ... News Limited ... [has] been selectively highlighting issues, and in the process sensationalizing them."

No, Ms. Smith-Johns. What's unfair is that you fault News Ltd for focusing on the issue that's likely to lose them a multi-million dollar investment.

And if, as she says, it is not their intention to see the Fiji Times closed, why try and force a sale within 3 months? Even if there were a ready and willing buyer available tomorrow, it's unlikely that the transaction and it's legal niceties could be completed in such a short time.
Gross exaggeration indeed said…
Respectfully. The only gross exaggeration I can see here is the statement by Smith Johns that the 'new Decree will have a positive impact on the economy, human rights, good governance and access to accurate information.' This is a ridiculous statement - any honest rationale analysis would indicate the probability of the opposite is very high indeed.
For the future of Fiji's children, there needs to be an urgent and serious realty check by this junta - it is showing all the class signs of 'groupthink'.
Global Citizen said…
So the military thugs force a multinational to divest a long established investment... tell my why any other international company will now want to invest in Fiji?
MJ said…
Global Citizen,
The Australian government recently blocked a Chinese company from taking over a mining company. Does this mean all foreign investment in Australia will now magically disappear? Stop making sensationalist comments.
MJ said…
The negative comments all seem to focus only in the foreign ownership clause (I wonder if they are all Fiji Times employees?). Nothing much about any other part of the decree. From that observation it seems the government must have done a pretty good job then.
Anonymous said…
Sharon Smith Johns says the new Media Decree is similar to those in effect in Australia and the USA. That may be so. What is different is the independence of the Media Development Authority.

1 Man, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as Attorney General and Minister of Communications is heavily involved in the appointments. Now if you believe that he will appoint wisely and fairly and that the new Authority will work independently then all is well.

However, if you believe that Aiyaz, and this government, will run true to form then he will interfere in the authority and will influence their decisions.

Croz, I am sure you will say give them time and that is because you are a generous soul. I on the other hand am less generous and have witnessed this government’s heavy handed interference in so many areas that I know that this Authority will do the bidding of Aiyaz and the government.
Welcome to Zimbabwe or some other hellhole said…
For all you paranoid, ultranationalist, foreigner hating (racist?), "like it or lump it" types, can I just cut to the chase here.

This is about telling foreign interests who came here in good faith when Fiji was a democracy and the people had the final say ; " we are now a dictatorship and within three months, you will leave. It doesn't matter if you have to dispose of your business in a fire sale. We don't care how much you get. We just want you out".

If that's not a willful expropriation of something that rightfully belongs to someone else, then I don't know what is. You or I wouldn't be able to sell a house in Suva in three months. But News Limited is being told that is the deadline to sell a business as big as the Fiji Times.

Get real, you guys. This is the Zimbabwe way we're taking here. And if you all want to live in Zimbabwe, why not move there and leave the rest of us alone?

I haven't voted for these people, don't like the way they behave, are watching as they destroy my economic future and that of my children and you expect me to wear it?

You're a disgrace, all of you. Yes and you too Croz for even trying to defend something you should know is wrong. At the very least, the Fiji Times should have been required to sell down its foreign holding over time. But this is extortion.

No other foreign owned company is Fiji is now safe, whatever assurances are given. I wouldn't put one more cent into the place if I was them. And believe me, they won't. I keep thinking things can't get any worse in Fiji. But they do.
Good for nothing said…
What on earth is Sharon Smith Johns on about? How can the Media Decree be "good for the economy?" When you say something like that, wouldn't you expect a follow up line saying why? Or is this an Information Ministry that doesn't have to answer why to anything? Ah, I forgot. It's a dictatorship. Silly me.
Dr Nandan's true colours said…
Satendra Nandan is all over the Australian papers this morning defending the action against the Fiji Times and accusing it of waging a campaign against the regime since 2006. This Is totally inappropriate from the supposedly independent head of an "independent" media authority. Right away, he's identifying himself as partisan when he's meant to arbitrate complaints against the media Dr Nandan doesn't seem to understand that it's not his role to be an advocate for the regime. If he really is "independent" (yeah, right) he's there to represent the best interests of media consumers in Fiji. This guy also admits to the Australian media that the journalistic experience Aiyaz referred to in announcing his appointment amounts to a few months on the news desk of an Indian newspaper back in the 70s. He's never been a working journalist, as anyone who's read his stilted academic prose will already know. Memo Dr Nandan: if you want to be taken seriously as an "independent" media arbitrator, keep your counsel and stop playing advocate for the regime. What hope does any journalist have before the Media Authority when you've telegraphed your views in such an appallingly inappropriate manner? This is as Orwellian as the move against the Fiji Times. Incidentally, by joining the criticism of the FT for being anti-government, Dr Nandan gives the lie to the regime's claims that this is all about foreign media ownership. The truth is it's all about silencing the critics.
Charlie Charters said…
The most recent time I lived in Fiji, from 2001-2004, I worked with Sharon Smith-Johns and liked her a lot. Found her very approachable and professional.

Perhaps somebody else drafted her comments because on matters of fact there are a great number of errors:

1. Rupert Murdoch bought the NY Post in 1976 as an Australian citizen - he only gave up his citizenship in 1985 when he began to investigate the purchase of a TV station. There was no legislation preventing him as a foreign citizen owning a newspaper, but there were if he wanted to own a TV station.

2. Likewise in Australia, the same applies. The Irish media entity INM controls APN which runs many regional daily newspapers up and down the country, as well as the NZ Herald. No such foreign ownership restrictions apply. (Nor for that matter do they apply in the UK, where a Russian tycoon has just purchased the Independent and London Evening Standard.)

3. Singapore - well. There you go. Let's all close our eyes and pretend what we want from these new media rules is that we wake up in Singapore. (I lived in Hong Kong for 12 years).

Perhaps somebody in the ministry is deliberately running together unrelated issues (foreign ownership, cross media ownership, ownership of radio and TV) in order to give a fig leaf of international credibility to this fit-up.
GSC said…
Look up the media laws of so called 'democratic' countries? Only issue I see with the new law is the '3 months' to change ownership. Maybe FT should apply for an exemption to give them 12 months to comply. Otherwise there is nothing else wrong with the media law - encourages accountable reporting
Why did Rupert - owner of FT need to get US citizenship to expand his media empire.
Media misinformation said…
GSC, Rupert Murdoch only had to get US citizenship because he wanted to expand into the TV business in America. He already owned newspapers in the US as an Australian citizen. So this is a complete furphy. You don't know the facts and neither do Aiyaz nor Sharon Smith Johns. Go on, do the research. Murdoch also has huge interests in Britain when he's not British, In italy when he's not Italian and in Asia when he's not a citizen of any Asian country. Oh, and in Australia when he had to give up his Australian citizenship to became an American before the US allowed dual citizenship. For God's sake, we are in a global media environment in which national borders no longer matter. And Fiji is part of that. Should Fiji TV be forced to sell its EM TV business in Papua New Guinea because it's a Fijian company? Of course not. Let's stop the pretence here. All this stuff about foreign ownership masks the reality of shutting down media outlets because they don't toe the line.
MJ said…
Media misinformation - Yes some countries do not have any media restrictions, others like the USA have restrictions on TV but not newspapers and other countries have restrictions on both.

There are a wide range of examples out there. This just proves that laws like the Fiji media decree are common and are not outrageous as some people are trying to make out.
GSC said…
"On 4 September 1985, Murdoch became a naturalised citizen in order to satisfy the legal requirement that only US citizens were permitted to own American television stations."
My previous comment said media not 'newspaper'.
As I said previously read the media laws of Aust & the US and then compare against the law in Fiji.
Also research on the media's influence on the 'democratic' elections in these countries in the last 5 years. The media influences over 80% of voters in these countries. KRudd is a good example of the influence that media carry. Responsible & accountable reporting is what the current media law in Fiji is trying to achieve.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
At then end of all this argumentation, there is really only one remaining factor which all the above have missed: Was and Is the Fiji Times part of "The Rot"? If it was not, why did it only recently join the investigative hue and cry? Far too late to make any difference. How is it that the Fiji Times sat on the proverbial fence and allowed a mob to run amuck uncommented. None of the rest bears any significance once this consideration is made. Part of any solution? The fabric was torn long ago. The threads leading in many unsvoury directions.
Anonymous said…
@ Charlie Charters

Cannot imagine why Charlie writes books about other places when his books would be just as well placed in Fiji? There is plenty of material suitable for almost any genre of writing (as Professor Satendra Nandan so skilfully works into his renowned oeuvre). "Silktail" by Peter Thomson is one example. A reading places one immediately in Fiji and Taveuni in particular: so delicately and accurately envisaged in exquisite detail.

"All good men should come to the aid of the party" and "all good men and women should work night and day to stop the rot". If you are not party to a solution, then you are obstructing the rebirth of a nation brought down by corruption of every conceivable kind.

Lots of good stories in this. But this is survival and the reality is grimmer than you may ever have cast a fleeting thought to? Surely, you too have not fallen prey to the depraved and dissolute disinformation of The Mob?

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