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Focus on Fiji media

Samuel Berenyi
Friday, February 14, 2014

A RECENT report by the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) found Fiji had the most extreme cases of limited freedom of speech.

The 2013 report showed that out of the 14 Pacific countries surveyed, Fiji has the most extreme cases of limited freedom of speech.

In comparison to the Fijian media, journalists in Papua New Guinea are usually free to report, with only occasional reported pressure from the government and big business to censor stories.

In terms of Freedom of Information Legislation (FOI), the first and only country in the Pacific so far, according to the report, to introduce the FOI is the Cook Islands.

Implementation has, however, been problematic and journalists face ongoing barriers to government information.

Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have FOI provisions in the constitution and other Pacific countries are in dialogue with advisory agencies regarding FOI legislation.

These countries include Vanuatu, Tonga and Palau. Fiji was not listed.

The report said tradition and culture are significant factors in journalism across the Pacific, impacting media freedom, and that scholars and practitioners have engaged in conversation seeking to define the "Pacific way" of doing journalism.

The report also said a professional interviewed for the survey suggested that "when a crisis erupts caused by a journalist doing his/her job rather well, governments tend to selectively invoke 'tradition' or 'the Pacific way' to criticise, even silence the media".

An example of this outlined by the report, is when the government pressured and then banned a non-government newspaper in Tonga.

It is worth noting that Tonga moved from "partly free" to "free" press in the freedom rating during 2012, due to improved civil liberties.

As the mainstream media is limited in its capacity to report, especially here in Fiji, online media may be providing a way to critique the political regime, especially in light of the upcoming election.

Yet there are concerns in regard to information quality if people turn to blogs and social media.

"There are serious concerns about the quality of information and consequences of postings as people turn to blogs and social media for information," the report said.

In regards to journalism in the Pacific, David Robie (2008, as quoted from the report) discussed the idea of development.

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