Fiji Government and military spokesperson Major Neumi Leweni today said that the call for the closure of The Fiji Times is indicative of how serious Government views the need for the media to report with greater responsibility. “This Government has pleaded with the media industry for better understanding of our situation, and to help move the nation forward by reporting fairly, accurately and with greater responsibility given that we are dealing with matters of significant national interests. However, some sections of the media have continued to take a hard-lined approach. In any case, neither the Government nor the military intends to shut down the media here in Fiji,” he said.
He said the International Federation of Journalists and its Asia Pacific director, Jacqueline Park, can therefore rest assured that the media in Fiji will continue to operate with freedom because this is enshrined in our Constitution. Government's position on the media as formally conveyed to the recent Media Review Team sponsored by the Media Council of Fiji is that Government does not seek to control nor gag the media.
“The freedom of the media has been enshrined in all our Constitutions since 1970. In the 1997 Constitution, it is guaranteed under Section 30 of the Bill of Rights. In view of this Constitutional guarantee, Government wishes to pursue a cordial relationship with the media; a relationship which is both professional and objective, and which at the outset is complemented by Government's obligation to protect and uphold the public's interest. This is Government’s official position which was formally communicated in its submission to the Media Review Team. Having said that, I wish to emphasise that while Government is not against freedom of the media, it is however against the use of this freedom in a manner which is irresponsible, and not conducive to a stable social, economic and political environment. This is Governmen's principal concern,” he said.
“The Media Review Team has submitted a report which is now currently under scrutiny by a sub-committee of the Media Council. I can only ask that this committee study the Report and put emphasis on measures that will guarantee reporting that is fair, balanced and devoid of political leanings.
Major Leweni said the comments made earlier by the Military's Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti, therefore need to be taken in proper perspective. His comments echo serious concerns about the fact that the media has often abused its freedom and acted irresponsibly ahas been noted by numerous submissions to the Media Review Team. “The local media therefore has nothing to fear as long as they use their freedom guaranteed under the Constitution, with greater responsibility,” Major Leweni said. -- Source:Ministry of Information. www.fiji.gov.fj/publish/cat_press.shtml/www.pacmediawatch.aut.ac.nz