The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum have condemned a proposed media law in the Pacific nation of Fiji that threatens journalists with prison sentences and fines and seeks to limit foreign ownership of media companies.
Under the proposed regulations, news reports will be required to exclude material that is "against the public interest or order" or could cause "communal discord". The government will also be given powers to seize documents and computer equipment to investigate alleged breaches of the law by journalists.
In a letter sent to Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, WAN-IFRA expressed concern that the proposed Media Decree "seeks to further entrench censorship" in Fiji through "harsh penalties for vaguely worded offences". Journalists could face up to five years in jail and fines of up to F$100,000.
The Decree would also limit foreign media ownership to 10 percent, several leading Fijian newspapers would be forced to close or seek alternative ownership.
The Decree will replace the current practice of military censors approving all publications as the government seeks to stamp out "negative" stories. In the letter, WAN-IFRA warned that "the consequences of introducing this Decree can only be to reduce the diversity of news sources and editorial content... thereby depriving the people of Fiji access to balanced information and a diversity of opinions."
The full letter can be read here.