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Fiji to scrap Media Industry Development Act

During a post-cabinet press conference yesterday, Rabuka said Cabinet has approved the tabling of a Bill to repeal the Act as a whole.

He said the decision is pursuant to the coalition government’s commitment to the growth and development of a strong and independent news media in the country.

"It has been said that 'media freedom and freedom of expression is the oxygen of democracy'," he said.

"These fundamental freedoms are integral to enable the people to hold their government accountable."

Rabuka also said he is proud to be making the announcement, which was key to their electoral platform and a demand he heard echoed in all parts of the country he had visited.

The Fijian Media Association has welcomed and celebrates Cabinet’s decision adding it has been a long time coming for Fiji’s media workers who have struggled to operate freely under this law while carrying the threat and burden of the punitive law every day they have turned up to work for the past 12 years.

The association in a statement said the threat and that burden is being lifted.

The news has been welcomed by editors and journalists as a historic moment for the Fiji media and a ‘big win for democracy and media freedom’.

General Secretary Stanley Simpson said the MIDA Act 2010 and its subsequent amendments have restricted media development and suppressed media freedom in Fiji for over 12 years and the FMA in its submission to government has been adamant that the Act be repealed.

He said the excessive fines hanging over the heads of the media organisations and editors were threatening and not conducive to media freedom, and designed to be vindictive, punish and control the media rather that encourage better reporting standards.

Simpson said the FMA advocated to bring back the media freedom Fiji was renowned for prior to 2006 including bringing back the situation that existed prior to 2006, and that is media self-regulation through the Fiji Media Council, an organisation made up of media organisations and community reps to handle complaints and media standards.

The Association said in its 12 years of existence no cases appeared before MIDA or its non-existent Tribunal, highlighting how ineffective it has been for media development, but solely designed to be used as a tool for media suppression.

It said the backbone of any democracy is an independent, strong and responsible media that reports, critiques, analyses and stimulate debates that are vital to the democratic process.

The FMA expressed its appreciation to the coalition government for following through on their promise to remove the draconian law, and allow the media to do its work in holding government and people in authority accountable.