Professor Subramani, a former University of the South Pacific academic and author who heads Fiji’s new Media Development Authority, has dismissed the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) report ranking the country as worst in the Pacific for media freedom.
He says many people have not read the country’s media decree carefully enough and have “misconceptions”.
The decree provides media guidelines that were previously not present and it should be regarded as a “stage in the evolution” of the Fiji media industry, he says.
Professor Subramani says the authority is setting up its infrastructure so that it could be fully operational within a month.
The position of secretary for the authority will be advertised in the next week and an office space has been earmarked.
Subramani told FBC News the authority would be proactive in working with the media, and constructively help support the development of quality media services.
It would also interpret the provisions in the media decree.
Professor Subramani told FBC News that the authority had not received any formal complaints so far but there had been some comments and “a couple” of verbal complaints.
According to the RSF World Press Freedom Index report, New Zealand was one of the 10 top winners and Japan (11th), Australia (18th) and Hong Kong (34th) occupied “favourable positions”.
Two Asian democracies, Taiwan and South Korea, rose 11 and 27 places respectively, after noteworthy falls in the 2009 Index. Although some problems persist, such as the issue of the state-owned media’s editorial independence, arrests and violence have ceased.
Some developing countries have managed to make solid gains, particularly Mongolia (76th) and the Maldives (52nd). As a rule, the authorities have been respectful of press freedoms, exemplified by their decriminalisation of press offences in the Maldives.
However, “an occasional ranking in this index can be deceptive”, the RSF report said.
Fiji (149th), for example, rose three places, even though the military-backed government had passed a new “liberticidal” press law.
“The year 2009 had been so tragic, with soldiers invading news staff offices, that the year 2010 could only seem to be somewhat more tranquil,” the report said.
Sri Lanka (158th) jumped four places: “Less violence was noted there, yet the media’s ability to challenge the authorities has tended to weaken with the exile of dozens of journalists.”
Roland Koroi is a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reporter.
Source: 7091 Pacific Media Watch