(G) Media Decree: Government Release



The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 (“the Decree”) was gazetted by the Government on Friday, 25 June 2010. The commencement date for this Decree has also been issued by the Prime Minister and Minister for Information.

The Decree has commenced with effect from today, Monday, 28 June 2010.

As you are no doubt aware, the Decree was approved by Cabinet earlier this year, and Cabinet also approved for consultations to be held with relevant stakeholders throughout the country. Consultations were held with the media industry and the members of the public in April 2010.

During the consultations, a number of recommendations were made by a number of persons for changes to certain provisions of the Decree. Government has considered these recommendations and has incorporated most of them into the final gazetted Decree, keeping in mind the need to balance the interests of the media industry with the public interest.

I would like to highlight some of the important changes that have been incorporated in the Decree after the consultations:

1.    The definition of media organisation has been refined to exclude internet service providers, telecommunications service providers and any production house engaged in the production of advertisements or other audio-visual materials. The Minister also has the power to exempt any non-profit or charitable organisation. (Section 2)

2.    The composition of the Media Industry Development Authority (“the Authority”) has been expanded from one person to a total of 6 members. The membership of the Authority now comprises:

(a)    A chairperson;
(b)    The Solicitor General or his nominee;
(c)    One person representing the interest of consumers in Fiji;
(d)    One person representing the interest of children;
(e)    One person representing the interest of women; and
(f)    One person with experience in journalism and/or the media industry.

(Section 4)
3.    The requirement for including a byline has been reviewed, and only the content of any print media which is in excess of 50 words must include a byline. (Section 23)

4.    Previously, the Decree empowered the Authority to require documents or information from any media organisation, and to enter premises under a search warrant. This power has now been limited. The Decree now has express provisions for the protection of identity and particulars of the source of any information published by a media organisation. Thus, if the Authority deems it necessary to require the disclosure of the source of any news item, the Authority must apply to the Media Tribunal for appropriate orders. However, no media organisation is, under the Decree, required to disclose the identity or particulars of the source of any news item, which relates to corruption or abuse of office by a public officer. (Section 28)

5.    The requirement of registration of media organisations remains the same, and all media organisations must be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Decree. (Section 33)

6.    An important amendment made to the Decree is in relation to the special features of media organisations. Under the Decree, all the directors and at least 90% of beneficial shareholders of any media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. The residency requirement has been relaxed, and “permanently residing” now means any person residing in Fiji for 3 out of the 7 years prior to registration and thereafter residing in Fiji for at least 6 out of 12 months of a year. (Section 37)

7.    All media organisations have 3 months from today, to ensure that their directors and 90% of the beneficial shareholders of the media organisation are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji. I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the Decree. At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements. (Section 38 and 43)

8.    The prohibition under the Decree for cross-media ownership has also been revised. Now, if a person owns a beneficial interest in any one media organisation, then that person may own a further interest in only one other media organisation provided that –

(a)    if the business or trade of that other media organisation is in the same medium, then the person may hold up to 25% non-voting interest in the other media organisation;

(b)    if the business or trade of that other media organisation is a different medium, then the person may hold up to 5% of non-voting interest in the other media organisation.

(Section 39)
9.    Any person holding an interest in more than one media organisation contrary to the requirements of the Decree has 12 months from today to dispose of any such interest. [Section 39(5)]

10.    Another important change made to the Decree is the reduction in the financial penalty or monetary compensation which can be ordered by the Tribunal against a media organisation. A journalist or an employee of any media organisation is only liable to a sum not exceeding $1,000, a publisher or editor is now liable to a sum not exceeding $25,000, whereas a media organisation is now liable to a sum not exceeding $100,000. This is a significant reduction from the sums previously provided, and it substantially reduces the sums which a journalist or a reporter may be liable to pay. (Section 65)

11.    Equally important is the introduction of the right of appeal against decisions of the Tribunal. Any complainant or the Authority now has a right of appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal against any final decision of the Tribunal. Any media organisation also has a right of appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal against any decision of the Tribunal which involves the payment of a sum in excess of $50,000 by that media organisation. (Section 79)

12.    The penalties for any offence committed under the Decree have also been significantly reduced. The penalty for any person who commits an offence has been reduced to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years, and the penalty for any company which commits an offence has been reduced to a fine not exceeding $100,000.

The Decree marks a substantial progress in the laws relating to media, and now provides for proper accountability and transparency of all media organisations. It introduces responsible reporting on the part of the media organisation, and provides the members of the public with more effective recourse for any complaint against media organisations.

The establishment of an independent Media Tribunal is a substantial development when compared to the Media Council, which was largely made up media organisation personnel.

Government looks forward to a successful implementation of the Decree. Dr. Satendra Nandan has been appointed as chairperson of the Authority. Dr Nandan is an internationally reknown academic and writer. He is also a trained journalist. He has written for numerous publications, has appeared on international media such as the BBC and is also a commentator. Other members of the Authority shall be appointed shortly. The Tribunal shall also be shortly appointed. Government also invites all stakeholders in the media industry to take note of the provisions of the Decree and to organise their business and trade in accordance with the Decree.

Thank you.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Industry, Tourism, Trade and Communications

For the full Decree, click this link to Mediafire and download. http://www.mediafire.com/?tzyfmin5wzz


Son of Fiji said…
I stopped reading after #2.

Global Citizen said…
Hope you happy ... your military government has become even more extreme. but I am sure you will have something nice to say about it all. and hey, you dont live here.
The sad decline of Fiji said…
As the Fiji (unelected) junta looks north, all other indicators head south. The Fiji Times will be a great loss to the people of Fiji. Any foreign investment is seriously under threat. Fiji is becoming the classic case study in the world at the moment of why dictatorships and totalitarianism simply do not work.
God bless the children and the poor of Fiji - sadly, it will get much worse.
Big brother wins said…
Croz, what a disgrace. So Rupert Murdoch has three months to relieve himself of the Fiji Times or it "ceases to operate as a media organisation" ie. the regime forcibly shuts it down. Well, there goes the jobs of everyone at the FT and anyone who depends on the business for a living. Not to mention Nai Lalakai, Shanti Dut and Kaila. The miserable Satendra Nandan should be ashamed of himself for choosing to preside over the big brother organisation that will supervise this travesty. As a former minister in the deposed Bavadra government, Nandan was worthy of respect. No longer. Now the mad racism displayed by the odious James Anthony in his sham report for Shaista Shameem passes into law. The white man is banished from the Fiji media and local journalists are terrorised with personal fines if they get their stories wrong. A very black day for Fiji and the start of something sinister and truly terrible. The regime and the country will pay a high price for this. You can count on it.
Day of shame said…
You watch. Any minute they'll announce the lifting of the PER, now that they've got the media muzzle in place.

Anyone who doubts that the full force of a global media giant will now stomp on Fiji doesn't know Rupert Murdoch. Everywhere he operates, he exercises the full force of his power. Compared to influencing events in the US and Europe, Fiji is like an irritating little fly. Which is why he'll stomp on it.

For the rest us, a paper we've all grown up with and has served Fiji well since 1869 will soon be no more. Thanks a million you trumped up, self righteous nobodies. No sense of history and no shame. Aiyaz, you arrogant bastard. Trample on our freedoms and one day we'll trample on you.
Murdoch isn't blameless said…
Let's not forget the role of the Fiji Times itself in this whole sorry mess. It could have been a lot smarter than it was in deliberately going out to antagonise the regime by, for instance, refusing to call Frank Prime Minister. The FT doesn't have as many friends in Fiji as it should, especially considering how long it's been around. Why? Because anyone who compares what it used to be with what it is can only conclude that standards have fallen. Sure, people like Robert Keith Reid might have been from a different age. OK, white men with better training, better news sense and better command of the language. But while there've been many decent local journalists over the years, most of them went on to greener pastures because of the lousy pay. You'd also have to say the FT didn't put enough effort into training and allowed so much rubbish into the paper that many of its own readers gave up on it. So Murdoch has a right to feel aggrieved but has to shoulder some of the blame. Of course, It's the FT's blameless readers who suffer the most. A sad day for anyone who cares about the media and who has a sense of history. So many of Fiji's links to the past are gone that this one is especially depressing to contemplate.
Endgame said…
Some people seem to think Murdoch will sell to local interests, But why should he? If he gives in to this lot, every other country will see it as a green light to take a stick to him. No, i think he'll shut down the operation altogether and put a a few hundred people out of work. It'll be the biggest employment crisis since the 2006 coup and will make everyone think twice about how smart this regime really is. Murdoch can shut up shop crowing about the need not to bow to an unelected dictatorship. And the likes of Netani Rika and Sophie Foster will get jobs with their old News Limited pals in Australia. Remember when the time comes, you heard it first here.
Leqa levu said…
I fear that the silence from News Limited ever since the new decree was mooted means they're going to tough it out.

Give all their staff notice, wait for the three months to expire, have a "that's it folks till democracy returns" edition and turn themselves into a global cause celebre.

If the regime then seizes the presses, Fiji's assets will be at risk abroad as Murdoch's lawyers strike back.

The regime seems to think News will sell to a local. But who could afford to buy the Fiji Times? And why would anyone want the flak that would come with it?

I think the silence of the past few weeks is the silence before an almighty storm, and one that will envelope the who country before it subsides.

Aiyaz has broken an age old dictum. Know your enemy before you attack him.
times should close its doors immediately said…
Congratulations to the Fiji Times for not capitulating to this military junta. Your courage and principled values will be remembered by all real Fijians who love their country.
Time to close it down and shift out all printing presses and other moveable assets to Samoa or one of the other democratic nations in the Pacific.
@ Murdoch isn't blameless
Am confused by your comment? Unless I am mistaken Murdoch had nothing to do with this coup? And why would the Fiji Times call biainimarama the PM when he clearly is not? I don't recall anyone electing him?
MJ said…
Many countries have foreign ownership laws regarding the media. This is not something invented by the current government. Also, if the Fiji Times is as good as posts above are saying it wont be lost but just sold to someone else. Whats the huge problem here?
Murdoch's rage said…
To follow is the very angry News response, number 2 story on the website of The Australian. It ain't pretty.
NEWS Limited has expressed outrage at the Fiji government's decree to force media organisations to be 90 per cent locally-owned in three months.

The move is devastating for the 180 staff of The Fiji Times, which has been owned and run by News Limited for the last 23 years.

The order is contained in The Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which was gazetted into Fiji law today, despite months of protests from News Limited.

The Fiji Times is a vital source of independent news, current affairs, information and entertainment for all Fijians.

Staff at the paper have already endured censorship, physical intimidation and the deportation of two successive Managing Directors in 2008 and 2009.

News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan described the Decree as “an appalling assault on free speech and a terrible blow for the fragile economy of Fiji".

“This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji’s reputation as an attractive investment opportunity.

“This is an outrageous precedent that will make foreign investors in other industries very nervous about their involvement and support there.”
Job threat said…
The bit in John Hartigan's statement tonight that will spread fear through the Fiji Times and everyone who depends on it.
“This is a very sad day for News Limited, and sadder still for the fine management, staff, readers and clients of The Fiji Times.

“It will also put at risk the jobs of close to 200 people working for us in Suva, Nadi and Labasa, and threaten more than a thousand others whose livelihood is based on selling our newspapers,” he said.

And the bit that should terrify the rest of us, because we now know what their attack plan will be:
“This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji’s reputation as an attractive investment opportunity.

“This is an outrageous precedent that will make foreign investors in other industries very nervous about their involvement and support there.”

A big veka sandwich and what for?
Stupid and gutless said…
So they're keeping the emergency regulations for another three months despite saying they'd lift it once the Media decree was in place. I wonder why? Could it be that they fear what the Fiji Times might say with twelve weeks to say it and no censor? These guys are lamu sona sara ga.
Sega na vanua ni lasa said…
Definition of outrage:1/ a feeling of righteous anger 2/an act grossly offensive to decency and good taste 3/ a deplorable insult 4/ resultful anger aroused by a violent or offensive act.

Can we deduce from this that Mr Murdoch and his executives aren't Frankie's biggest fans?
Disaster for Fiji said…
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. They're also talking openly in Murdoch's Australian newspaper about going after Fiji in the capital markets.

The disaster here is that we'll now have 3 months of relentlessly negative publicity, culminating in a dramatic climax when the deadline expires. If no-one local buys the Fiji Times, we'll see 200 people dumped on the street and a 1000 more affected indirectly. And all when the Fiji economy is on its knees.

What the hell was the regime thinking? If, as many think, this was Aiyaz's idea, it's high time that Frank cut him loose. Why start a fire in another part of your bure when you're fighting a blaze at the front? The guy's an idiot.
Alter ego said…
One can't help but wonder at why those with cross-media ownership issues are given 12 months to achieve compliance, but those with foreign media ownership issues are given only 3 months to comply.

Seems deliberately punitive.

Interesting also that the PER has suddenly been extended for a further 3 months, where it was previously reviewed and extended on a monthly basis.
Proud Fijian said…
@ Endgame

If The Fiji Times closes down and 100 people loose their jobs - it wont be the biggest job crisis since the 2006 coup.

The biggest job crisis since the 2006 coup was the Vatukoula Gold Mine closure that cost 1700 jobs.

That was not due to the coup.
TheMax said…
Who cares about the Fiji Times going down? Good riddance.

There are times that the sovereignty of a nation and the protection of it's citizens, economy and industries comes first before anything else. Any student of counter espionage closely following the Fiji Times reporting style in the last 20 years can clearly see elements of subversive activities in its selective and manipulative editorial stances. Using the cover of media freedom, freedom/rights to publish, the Fiji Times has been slithering like a snake undermining Fiji's sovereignty by manipulating the minds of its readers through selective editorial. If you guys don't believe me, just ask Mahendra Chaudary's Fiji Labour Party who has been suffering throughout their existence as a politcal party especially during the 1999-2000 period.

The Fiji Times or media freedom is not sacrosanct that it becomes untouchable by ruling governments. Any government in the world has the right to dismantle, destroy or close down any organization that has an ulterior agenda to destabilize the state. In the Fiji Times case, its been going on for years.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the real reason behind the Fiji Times subversive activities. A politically unstable Fiji plays into the hands of Australia and New Zealand's agenda of subjugating Fiji's sovereignty and therefore increase influence in Fiji and the Pacific. So the Fiji Times, being the oldest and most widely read newspaper in Fiji, played the role of the master manipulator for Australia and New Zealand push to dictate and control Fiji's politics.

What I don't understand is Australia and New Zealand stand against Bainimarama. The more they take this hardline stance, the more their trule agenda on the Pacific get exposed. This is probably the reason why Fiji is moving ahead in joining the non-aligned movements.
Maximum idiocy said…
The Max, I really don't get this stance of yours about sovereignty. For 140 years, the Fiji Times has been operating and like every paper, annoying officialdom from time to time. That's media freedom in a democracy. Now we have an unelected dictatorship making its own rules at a whim with no legitimate authority whatsoever. That's the real issue here. If the Fiji Government doesn't like what one newspaper says, it should start it's own paper. But you can't seize an asset owned by a foreigner with three months notice and not expect people to be mightily upset. Sometimes I despair about people like you, so obsessed with maintaining speed that they can't see the speed bumps ahead. This is one that's quite capable of tearing the guts out of the underside of the vehicle. And by that I mean the jobs of a hell of a lot of ordinary people at the Fiji Times and perhaps thousands more potential jobs if the foreign investment community gives the country a big thumbs down. That's the reality of the global marketplace. Destroy confidence in a place and that place is destroyed.
Aspice, officio fungeris sine spe honoris amplioris said…
The Max: Fiji (and you) have to understand that we need to operate according to international rules. It does not work the other way round.

That is the reality of the situation we find ourselves in.

It would be different if Fiji had huge reserves of oil. But we don't so we can't dictate what the international community should do.

As for the Fiji Times, you seem to think that there is some kind of conspiracy by the paper to bring down every government that has been in power - legally or otherwise.

Every government as far back as I can remember has tried to introduce legislation to govern how media organisations operate in the country.

Rabuka, Chaudhry, Qarase. So your seeming rationalisation that the paper has some kind of extreme nationalist agenda is absurd.

Croz, I am tired of you endlessly drawing attention to "the Rupert Murdoch-owned this or the Rupert Murdoch-owned that".

Surely, they have the right to hold their opinion and push their agenda - just as you have the right to push yours with this blog.

If you had endless reserves of oil, people would probably take a little more notice of what you say.

But you don't and so they don't.

That's the reality of the situation.
TheMax said…
@ Maximum idiocy,

What about the lost opportunities of the past 20 years as a result of the Fiji Times destabilizing and subversive activities in Fiji? The Fiji Times maybe 140 years old but it sing to its masters tune in this case, sit in an office in the US colluding with DFAT officials in Australia. Rupert Murdoch had to forfeit his Australian citizenship for the same reason the new Fiji media decree is trying to do in Fiji by localizing media ownership.

A politically stable Fiji will result in an attractive investment economy so for that reason, destabilizing and subversive elements must be taken out first. The current RFMF leadership has clearly identified where the problem was starting with the removal of a racially-biased constitution, parliament, and other elements that helped to perpetuate this destabilizing forces.

The people of Fiji deserves a stable, fair and truly democratic government. We have lost so much because politically corrupt people have clearly exploited and used race as a wedge to create instability in Fiji.

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