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IFJ calls for censors to exit newsrooms

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 8, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins with the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) in urging the Fiji military regime to immediately remove the censorship system from the Pacific Island nation's newsrooms.

The Fiji Ministry of Information instructed departmental officials to look over and censor stories compiled by the country's daily newspapers, radio and television broadcasters when emergency regulations were put in place in April 2009.

The regime pledged to lift the regulations when the Media Industry Development Decree was gazetted on June 25 2010, but the censors remain. It is widely acknowledged that thousands of news reports have been censored since the officials were installed in 2009, with the resulting self-censorship also serving to undermine the industry.

The calls from the IFJ and PFF come as the Media Industry Development Authority, a body under the Decree that consists of members appointed by the Minister of Information, began regular meetings with stakeholders and media representatives, according to a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) report on February 5, 2011.

The IFJ remains firmly opposed to the Decree, and continues to hold significant concerns for journalists and media organisations, which can be fined and jailed if the tribunal rules that news reports breach the regime's Media Code of Ethics and Practice.

"These ongoing blanket controls on the media show that the Bainimarama regime intends to continue with attempts to keep the people of Fiji uninformed about what is happening in their communities," IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

"We urge the Fiji military regime to abandon this two-fold system of tight restrictions on the media, and instead move to foster an independent, ethical media culture. The IFJ's experience around the globe tells us that a thriving media culture is best-served through a system of self-regulation with a free press at its heart."

The Authority is planning to meet with organisations in Fiji and overseas associated with the media, the FBC reported. The IFJ would welcome the opportunity to discuss its concerns with Authority representatives and provide advice and support to provide a smooth transition to a system of self-regulation.

Radio New Zealand International reported on February 7 that the media representative on Fiji's Media Industry Development Authority and general manager of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Matai Akau'ola, is hopeful censors will soon be removed from newsrooms.

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