Pio to review restrictive laws affecting media freedom

Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration Pio Tikoduadua responds to the media during the press conference on Friday, May 5, 2023. Picture; JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua says he will “probably need” to look into whether the Public Order Act and the seditious provisions in the Crimes Act are an obstruction to freedom of expression for journalists and media houses in Fiji.

He said this in response to comments made by United Nations Human Rights Pacific regional representative (OHCHR) Heike Alefsen during the World Press Freedom Day event at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva last week.

Ms Alefsen said while the present developments within Fiji’s media industry were commendable, there was still much to be done.

She said there were still a number of restrictive laws, such as the Public Order Act and the seditious provisions in the Crimes Act and Online Safety Act, that needed to be reviewed to achieve a free and uncensored media environment in Fiji.

“If she’s recommending that, then it’s something that I probably need to look at it,” Mr Tikoduadua said.

“If she believes it’s tied down to MIDA (Media Industry Development Act (2010)). “If it’s still restricting the media, it will be something I need to look at, in the spirit of freeing our media.”

Mr Tikoduadua said it was not only about freeing the media, but about ensuring they were able to operate independently. In a piece written by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, he too referenced an article in this newspaper regarding the concerns about the aforementioned legislation.

“Although our media situation is much better now, a recent article in The Fiji Times quoting the UN Human Rights Pacific regional representative, Heike Alefsen, flags a concern we must address,” he wrote.

“In her view, we still have laws that pose risks to the freedom and operation of media organisations.

“Ms Alefsen mentioned provisions in the Crimes Act, and the Online Safety and Public Orders Act.

“I will be asking the Attorney-General to look into this and make recommendations.”

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