UN welcomes move to repeal Media Act

Solicitor General, Ropate Green Lomavatu, sitting fourth from left, pictured with participants of the Media Industry Development Act public consultation at the Suvavou House in Suva on Thursday, March 23, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Human rights, dignity and freedom of expression must be the cornerstone of any legislation drafted for the media industry in Fiji.

This was highlighted by United Nations Human Rights legal adviser Releshni Karan during public consultations on the Media Industry Development Act (MIDA) in Suva yesterday.

She also said the provisions on sedition in the Crimes Act need to be relooked.

During her submission, Ms Karan said the UN welcomed the move by Government to repeal the Media Industry Act as one of its first steps.

She said this was in line with the recommendations that were made by international mechanisms such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as the Rights of the Child (CRC) committee in the last Universal Periodic Review​ for Fiji.

“People need to be afforded the same rights offline as they are protected online, in particular, freedom of expression,” she said.

“We must also be aware that this is applicable regardless of frontiers, and the media apart from the traditional media, can be a media of anyone’s choice.”

She said this could include social media, radio, television etcetera.

“So any future Act that you would want to enact should perhaps look at that much more broadly and how you will ensure the rights in that space as well.

“Other than the traditional media, something that is very much respectful of human rights and dignity of people as well as also promote safety of journalists.

“I also agree with comments made by the first and second submitter from Fiji TV, who said to take out the seditious provisions from the Crimes Act, which had traditionally been used against journalists.

“I think this is something that should be looked at. Women journalists need to be protected against harm or harassment, both online and offline.”

Ms Karan said the current provisions at this point did not have any reference to privacy and human rights issues such as defamation.

“I leave it there that any regulation that Government is seeking to do of online platforms should be in accordance with international standards. That is in relation to due processes, transparency and there should be a right of appeal.

“The Government should do well to get rid of notions such as national security, extremism, incitement to hatred and these sort of jargons that limit the discretion of the officials when applying these sort of terminology.

“Information security, cultural security, national security, these words have a very broad sort of interpretation so these should not be used in any incoming legislation.”

Her office has also offered to provide guidance towards the drafting of the new media law.

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