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Fiji govt starts restrictions on foreign media ownership

A move by military-backed Fijian govt to introduce harsh restrictions on foreign ownership of media was met with international condemnation.



Sydney: A move by the military-backed
Fijian government to introduce harsh restrictions on foreign
ownership of media was met with international condemnation.

Under the South Pacific nation`s "Media Industry
Development Decree 2010," which came into effect yesterday,
media organisations have three months to ensure they are 90
per cent owned by local shareholders.

"Under the Decree, all the directors and at least 90
percent of beneficial shareholders of any media organization
must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji,"
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in a statement.

"Any media organization which fails to comply with
this requirement shall cease to operate as a media
organization, and shall also be liable for an offence under
the Decree," Sayed-Khaiyum added.

Fiji`s oldest and most popular newspaper, the Fiji
Times, is owned by US media magnate Rupert Murdoch`s News
Corp.

Sayed-Khaiyum said the Fiji Times would be the only
organization affected by the new local ownership requirements.
When the decree was first announced in April,
Sayed-Khaiyum described the newspaper as "the purveyor of
negativity, at least for the past three years."

Under the new legislation, any journalist found guilty
of breaching restrictions faces fines of up to about USD 5,042
or imprisonment of up to two years.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Fiji`s
move to limit foreign ownership was bad for both investment
and freedom of speech.

"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," Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key echoed Smith`s
concerns.

"It looked very heavy-handed and reiterates what we
have been saying for quite some time -- that we want to see
democracy restored in Fiji because we want a fully operating
economy and environment," Key was reported as saying by New
Zealand Press Association.

"When you start banning media and telling
organizations to sell their newspapers, to me it sounds like a
step too far," Key added.

Both Australia and New Zealand have been critical of
Fiji`s military-led government, largely over its refusal to
hold a general election until 2014. Commander Frank
Bainimarama overthrew the democratically elected Laisenia
Qarase government in December 2006.

PTI

From Zee News

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