Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fiji: Ending press freedom

Yesterday Fiji's military regime released its draft media decree [PDF]. As expected from a bunch of thuggish soldiers, it is aimed primarily at controlling and silencing the media than ensuring proper standards. Under the decree, "media organisations" - and that includes bloggers or anyone that "create [sic] an internet website capable of being accessed by the public" - will be forbidden to publish anything which is "against the public interest or order" or "against national interest", on pain of 5 years imprisonment and a whopping fine. What's "the national interest"? That's up to the new media authority to decide on a case-by-case basis. And if they get it wrong, tough - as is common with the decrees of the military government, its decisions will not be able to be challenged in court. And so Fiji will get dictatorial, unreviewable censorship, even worse than that permitted by the current emergency regulations.

(Media organisations will also be forbidden from portraying exorcism or hypnotism. Yes, seriously. What a bunch of bumpkins)

The result of this is clearly intended to be a silent, complaint press, which parrots the government line unquestioningly. And that is incompatible with democratic values. But then, if the military cared about them, they'd still be in their barracks, rather than running the country.