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PFF welcomes regime lifting of media ban, calls for open dialogue

(PFF/IFEX) - April 2, 2010: Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS - Removal of a ban on the two biggest media organisations in Fiji from taking part in regime-led consultations affecting the future of media and censorship there is welcome news, says the Pacific Freedom Forum.

"It's early days yet, but removal of the ban is the first sign of progress towards direct conversations between the regime and all media organisations in Fiji," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea, of Papua New Guinea.

It is almost a year since the abrogation of the Fiji Constitution last April in a move which undermined free speech, free expression and the right to freedom of assembly. Interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, told Fiji's media of the decision to drop a ban involving key media outlets the Fiji Times and Fiji TV in discussions over a proposed media decree. The lifting of the ban now gives the two outlets just over a week to read the proposed decree and prepare their inputs for tabling during the consultations.

Talks between media and the regime are to take place over four days, 7th to 10th April 2010.

No reason has been given for the change, but only political parties will now be excluded from the talks expected to deal with advertising and media ethics. PFF urges the Fiji regime to use the removal of the ban as the first of many steps needed to restore real gains for restoring a free and independent media to the people of Fiji.

"Regional media colleagues have hoped for signs of a rational approach towards restoring a free media. We offer warm support for those no doubt working hard behind the scenes to bring Fiji back into line with generally accepted concepts of freedom of speech, and the contribution this makes to a stable and sustained democracy," says Laumaea.

The latest change of heart on media in Fiji must be followed by real intent and restoration of other democratic processes and freedoms for the people of Fiji, he says. "The door for engagement is now open; but media organisations in Fiji still tread on uncertain ground as they walk through that door. After all, it is still a media decree they are going to be discussing. Inviting all media players to the table is one thing. Opening up to what they have to offer is another, and we look forward to the outcome of the consultations and hope there is a respectful dialogue which may pave the way for more of the same."

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