30 January 1998


Fiji Government says no licensing but independent regulatory council

Incident details

legal action

(PINA/IFEX) -- The Fiji government has approved the drawing up of new media
laws which include an independent media regulatory council but exclude
suggestions for licensing newspapers and magazines. The Press Correction
Act, introduced in the British colonial era, is also to be scrapped.

**Updates IFEX alert of 9 December 1997**

The Cabinet (government ministers) accepted most of the recommendations of a
report by two British consultants from The Thomson Foundation who reviewed
Fiji's media laws in late 1996 at the request of the government. The
consultants recommended against licensing, but they suggested the expansion
of the industry's current self-regulatory Fiji News Council
into an independent Fiji Media Council.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said on 29 January 1998: "My government
believes in media freedom but this must be exercised in a responsible way so
as not to infringe the rights and interests of others. It must be exercised
with due sensitivity and a deep sense of responsibility to the rights and
interests of individual citizens, to particular communities
and to the collective interests of everyone in society."

The decision by the Cabinet follows submissions on the Thomson Foundation
Report by Information Minister Seruwaia Hong Tiy. Hong Tiy was a member of
an eight-member Cabinet sub-committee which reviewed the report. She invited
the views of Fiji news organisations before making her submission.

The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) on 30 January welcomed the Fiji
government's endorsement of most of the Thomson Foundation Report, and in
particular the rejection of licensing of the print media and replacement of
the Press Correction Act. PINA said it hopes the
Information Minister will work closely with the Fiji News Council in
establishing a Fiji Media Council. The Fiji News Council has already put in
place many recommendations in the Thomson
Foundation Report, it said.

The Ministry of Information and the State Law Office will now work on
drawing up appropriate legislation to be introduced to Parliament for approval.

Background Information

Fiji returned to an elected government in 1992 after two 1987 military
coups. The indigenous Fijian-led army overthrew an elected government
dominated by descendants of Indians mainly brought to Fiji last century to
work in the sugar fields. Fiji once again has among the most free and
developed news media in the Pacific Islands. Nevertheless, as newspapers,
magazines, and radio and television stations increasingly reveal corruption
and questionable practices by people in public office, some politicians have
called for tougher media regulations and "accountability."


Pacific Islands News Association
Level 2, 46 Gordon Street, Damodar Centre
Private Mail Bag, Suva
Fiji Islands
pina (@) connect.com.fj
Fax:+679 3317055
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