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Government proposes new media legislation, denies goal is to control media

(PINA/IFEX) - Fiji's interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has denied proposed new legislation is designed to control the nation's media, reports Radio Australia.

Military leader and interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has announced he is preparing major new media legislation.

All laws pertaining to freedom, restrictions, professional standards and the Code of Ethics will be consolidated into one media statute under the changes. A new tribunal will also be set up to hear appeals on complaints lodged with the Media Council.

Fiji Media Council chairman, Daryl Tarte, said he was stunned by what he calls the government's deception, saying he was told just 24 hours earlier that no such legislation would be introduced.

"He attended a meeting of the media council yesterday [17 July 2008], a full meeting where all the public members and most of the industry members were present, where he categorically stated that the Government did not intend to introduce any form of legislation that would regulate the media," Tarte said.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Tarte is over-reacting. "Let's not jump the gun. Let's work together," he said. "I think calling people names doesn't really help and I think the point is lost on people like Daryl Tarte, who is sort of jumping up and down at this stage. We have specifically said we do not want to control the media."

An urgent meeting of the Fiji Media Council resolved not to over-react following the announcement of the proposed Media Promulgation.

The Fiji Cabinet endorsed the proposed Media Promulgation following a submission by interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

The meeting of the Fiji Media Council heard differing views from members on how to deal with the issue at hand.

Most members want the status quo to remain, however the council would take a wait and see attitude on the mechanics of this new proposal by the Fiji government.

Government officials at the meeting said that the authorities would work closely with the Fiji Media Council on the Media Promulgation.

Certain industry members felt suspicious of the government's intentions in proposing the Media Promulgation.

The Fiji Media Council is a member of the Pacific Islands News Association. Other PINA members at the meeting were Islands Business, Fiji Television, Communications Fiji Limited, "Fiji Sun" and "Fiji Times".

PINA Manager Matai Akauola attended the meeting on the invitation of Tarte.

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