PFF, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS -- A threat from the Fiji regime that coverage of people it brands as "opposition" will cost Fiji TV its broadcast license, has been strongly condemned by regional media watchdog the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.The order not to broadcast comments or pictures of a regime list of "opposition" people including Laisenia Qarase, Mahendra Chaudhry, and Felix Anthony came from Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum two weeks ag, just days after a Fiji TV news bulletin carried a story that had interviews with the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and the Fiji Labour party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry. Both were responding to an earlier story in which constitution commissioner,Taufa Vakatale, had blamed politicians of the past for what she said was Fiji's current state.
Shared with management early last week, the editorial crackdown on what is perceived as 'anti-regime' coverage has put the station on notice that all content in June will be 'monitored' and will influence whether or not Fiji TV's 12-year license will be renewed at the end of this month.
"PFF condemns this demoralising and shameful action by the regime forcing journalists to ditch their ethics and professional integrity when they report for duty, and calls for its immediate retraction," says PFF co chair Titi Gabi, of Papua New Guinea.
"The criteria for meeting broadcast requirements should not rely on whether the leaders of the day are weeding out right of reply or balance to their own views. This episode clearly shows that the regime censors may be out of the newsrooms, but their work of keeping journalists gagged by fear for their families, intimidation and self-censorship continues."
PFF co chair Monica Miller says Fiji's journalists are already gagged by the Media Decree and operating in a climate where media leaders are called into 'private' meetings with the Attorney General on a whim whenever he takes exception to news content.
"If the attorney General cannot use his own Media Decree and the regime's media authority to complain about perceived imbalance in reporting, he should revoke it. In the meantime, we stand in solidarity with those colleagues already seeking other jobs because it is becoming impossible to uphold ethics at this time Sadly, we are aware that the Fiji TV meeting has not been the only one in recent weeks and will continue to monitor the regime campaign to stamp out free speech and media in Fiji."