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Fiji Time: 9:49 PM on Friday 1 August

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Chilling effect on media, says Bogner

Frederica Elbourne
Saturday, May 05, 2012

THERE'S a chilling effect on the country's news media given the recent history of the industry combined with the provisions of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010.

That is the word from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific in Suva on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

Regional representative Matilda Bogner said it was of particular concern as Fiji was entering a constitution-making process, followed by democratic elections, scheduled for 2014.

"If these processes are to be legitimate, opposition and critical voices need to be heard," she said.

Ms Bogner said the situation for some journalists in the Pacific was tenuous and, in some countries, a decline was observed in recent years.

"Political upheaval in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, along with more subtle political agendas in a range of countries, have shown that press freedom is indeed a delicate flower in the Pacific.

"It needs to be nurtured in order to grow."

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day - a day set aside to acknowledge the importance of freedom of the press and to remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression, enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ms Bogner said the day provided an opportunity to reflect on the media freedom environment and to defend the media from attacks on its independence.

She said it was a day to pay tribute to the 106 journalists killed worldwide in 2011, according to the International Federation of Journalists, along with the countless others who have faced intimidation, bullying and other forms of hardship.

Acting Information Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the media was free to approach whoever it wanted for comment, adding that self-censorship was not a mandate of the government "as it must be by its very definition self-imposed".


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