Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says that the media plays a crucial role in the creation of a constitutional democracy and should therefore be free to report on all matters with no restrictions.
The Prime Minister said this in a speech to more than 300 delegates at the 15th Attorney General’s Conference in Natadola, Sigatoka today. Bainimarama also said that in developing countries, the media and the government need to collaborate in order to aid national development. He said that in Fiji, he expects no less – the media and the government should be partners no matter who is in the government.
He explained that the Media Industry Development Decree is an important tool in ensuring that journalists are given equal rights, and that he is glad that no media outlet has abused the rights that come with the decree.
“Some people saw the contempt proceedings against the Fiji Times as a means to muzzle the media. But, of course, that is not the case. Because contempt cases have been brought against the media in other so-called liberal democracies, the rules governing contempt are based on British common law, which is precisely the law under which media outlets like the Fiji Times had judicial decisions made against them,” he said.
According to Prime Minister Bainimarama, there are still some cases where there is a clear bias, and some journalists and media outlets see themselves as critical players in the political scene. Moreover, they are using the notion of a free media to mask their overt partisanship.
The Prime Minister hopes that lawyers will work closely with journalists in order to ensure that there is a seamless transition to democracy in Fiji. He added that racism, and ethnic, gender, and class stereotyping are still major problems in the media, and that the Media Authority will address these in a timely manner.