The report by Hawai based academic Doctor James Anthony was conducted on behalf of Fiji's Human Rights Commissioner Dr Shaista Shameen. Dr Anthony's report calls Fiji's media unprofessional, biased, politically connected, and dominated by foreign owners and reporters.
COONEY: Since it was announced last year the report by the Fiji Human Rights Commission on the freedom and independence of the media has generated plenty of spirited discussion, passionate criticism and wounded sensibilities. That was even before anyone knew exactly what it would say. In essence Dr James Anthony's report, all 323 pages of it, has found Fiji has to quote him, "a disproportionate number of failed media". As a solution he has six recommendations. The first three are:
"The establishment of a media tribunal independent of government control. The establishment of a media development authority to undertake training to raise the standard of reporting in Fiji. A seven per cent tax on all media advertising and another seven per cent tax on revenues earned from licensing and other fees paid by consumers. The money earnt to be used to fund the new media tribunal and the media development authority".
COONEY: Fiji's Human Rights Commissioner, Dr. Shaista Shameem has further recommended the media development authority and the media tribunal adopt a model used in Singapore. Singapore's media management laws often referred to as particularly repressive, also get a mention in recommendation four.
"That authorities consider implementing legislation that would make it illegal to publish or broadcast anything it judges would incite sedition or breach the public order act".
COONEY: Dr Anthony has also recommended Fiji adopt Singapore's media sedition legislation. He's also called on an end to allowing expatriate journalists to work and live in Fiji.
"That any existing work permits for foreign nationals working in Fiji's media not be renewed and no further permits be issued."
COONEY: Radio Australia understands that in recent months the interim government has already refused to renew the work permit of a foreign journalist, and on Monday expelled the publisher of the Fiji Sun newspaper, Australian Russell Hunter. But it's not just journalists who would be targeted. Foreign media owners and the alliances they make would also be scrutinised.
"That action be taken to control foreign ownership and the relation media owners have with political parties".
COONEY: The release of this report coincides with allegations published in two newspapers in Fiji, one of them the Fiji Sun, of tax evasion by an interim minister, later named by the Fiji Times as Finance Minister and former prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, allegations denied by Mr Chaudhry. As mentioned on Monday the publisher of the Sun, Russell Hunter, was deported with the immigration department saying his presence adversely affected national security, although just how hasn't been explained. As well this week interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama's released a statement saying his government's determined to uphold media freedom and he doesn't think the media's doing a good job. In the report Russell Hunter is named as one of the media executives in Fiji who was strongly opposed to its investigations. He defends the media's opposition to the report and he doubts the timing of events this week is coincidental.
HUNTER: I find it intriguing that it is released now, a matter of days after my abduction and deportation. This is obviously planned.
COONEY: Were you as members of the media opposed to the review though?
HUNTER: We were opposed to the review, this particular review, we were not opposed to any review.
COONEY: Did you make this admission to this?
HUNTER: No we did not however most of us did respond to the draft report, which by the way is a disgraceful document, it's a farce, it's opinion passed off as fact, it is totally based on anonymous sources, it has no validity whatsoever.
COONEY: Radio Australia contacted the chairman of Fiji's Media Council, Daryl Tarte, seeking a response to the report, in particular the criticism of what it says is the Council's ineffectiveness as an advocate and defender of the industry. At this stage Mr Tarte's not prepared to comment. But Russell Hunter was more than happy to give his opinion on some of the recommendations which Fiji's Human Rights Commissioner Dr. Shaista Shameem's being urged to take to the interim government. Mr Hunter is especially dismissive of the proposal to create a media tribunal and development authority to be funded by taxes on the media industry owners.
HUNTER: It's ridiculous, the money will never get to where it's supposed to go, it will not be accounted for, it'll be a slush fund.
COONEY: The idea that they will adopt a same sort of media system that is used in Singapore for as a watchdog on the media?
HUNTER: The same thing, it's just another grab for control.
COONEY: A ban on work permits and the renewal of all work permits for former expatriates wanting to work in the Fijian media?
HUNTER: Again it's just a blatant attempt to exclude people who they fear or dislike or both.
COONEY: Will this report be adopted?
HUNTER: I don't believe it will be, there will certainly be attempts to have it adopted, but as soon as a democratic government is in place it will be dumped.