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PFF urges military regime to drop proposed media law

(PFF/IFEX) - 25 January 2010 - Fiji's military regime can save time, money and credibility by dropping plans to rehash a media decree and doing away with the whole thing, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.

Leading mainstream media outlets Fiji Times and Fiji Television have been banned from a "consultations" process on a new media decree expected to take effect next month, a move which renders the whole process "meaningless", according to the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"Let newsrooms do their own editing, not military censors," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea. "It is a new year, the chance for a new page. We say to the regime leaders: give your people back their right to free speech and freedom of assembly, and ditch the punitive decree agenda. It does your credibility no favours."

The current media decree allowing regime censors into newsrooms is part of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER). This has gone through multiple extensions since it replaced the rule of law in April 2009.

The Fiji Court of Appeal had declared the military leadership unlawful and called for fresh elections to be held. Regime leader Frank Bainimarama responded by doing away with Fiji's constitution, and putting newsrooms under army censorship via the current media decree.

"By saying they will block out the Fiji Times and Fiji TV, the regime has unveiled their plans to step up the draconian measures which have seen them condemned by the global community, including Pacific leaders," says PFF co-chair Monica Miller of Samoa.

"We will continue to urge the regime leadership to free Fiji's media. Without a change of heart, the next decree will no doubt make life tougher for our colleagues, and those who dare to speak out in Fiji," she says.

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