The Fiji Times reports that under the newly created Media Industry Development Decree, foreign investors can only own up to 10 per cent of any Fiji-based media organisation. The decree introduces financial penalties against journalists and organisations deemed to have breached the legislation.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, head of the Fiji’s attorney-general’s office was quoted by the Fiji Times saying, “I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the Decree.
“At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements.”
News Limited says the military government’s Decree is an ‘appalling assault’ on free speech, adding that the jobs of nearly 200 Fiji Times staff and nearly 1,000 others involved in selling the newspaper are now at risk.
Meanwhile, Stephen Smith Australia’s foreign minister has also condemned the crackdown, telling News Limited the move was another example of the Pacific nation’s military rulers impinging on the democratic rights of its people, and would also hurt investment in Fiji.
He was quoted by The Australian saying, “We worry very much that this arbitrary move sends a very bad signal as far as future investment in Fiji is concerned, let alone the very bad signal it sends in terms of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and democratic rights.”
The Fiji Times was established in 1869 and is Fiji’s oldest newspaper still operating.
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