Executive Director for Media Watch Agatha Ferei made the comments after the Media Industry Development Authority's decree that all communications workers are now required to register.
Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Executive Director for Media Watch Agatha Ferei
FEREI: When the media industry development decree was first put out in 2010, the Media Industry Development Authority, the role was put back to be taken on by the state.
As an independent organisation, I always feel that when you have a Committee, it should be really made up of media people or media industry representatives, as well as public members. They are the ones that should really form this group and from the MIDA they did get public members and all, but at the end, of the day it was still managed and controlled by the state.
I don't think that in any group dealing with the media should have any state representative. The state role there is really with this decree with its code of ethics or whatever allocations have been put in the Constitution, to have the state involved directly with a group, like the Media Authority, I feel that it should be a role played outside of the state.
COUTTS: Now, the Fiji Media Authority is now calling for all workshops of media training, and any aspect of it within Fiji to be vetted and approved by them. You say you'll continue to run workshops, but will you adhere to that process as well?
FEREI: Well, we've always taken on when we need to do public work, when it involves an open invitation like all other organisations, which Media Watch needs to get approval and now I'm hearing that if the extent to media personnel and recently, we did not really get approval or we did not need to get approval.
What I'm gathering now, is that we need to seek approval and this will sort of make it difficult for us, because approval takes time and I don't know what the reason for asking for approval to train journalists.
COUTTS: Have you asked what it actually means and whether that will require you to change the way you train journalists or do media training?
FEREI: I have yet to find time to meet with those that are involved directly. I understand that someone that is in the current Committee has been someone that's worked with the media, it was a regional organisation, the Pacific News Association and he's also involved with the media. So maybe we will need to discuss reasons for all these things being said and what exactly would apply to organisations like Fiji Media Watch or would not require for us to get consent of that.
COUTTS: Other organisations, such as lawyers and the like have been all required to register under decrees issued by the interim government. Now, this seems that they're asking all communications workers and groups, including NGOs will also have to be registered. Will you comply with that?
FEREI: At the moment, I will have to meet my board to actually bring this to the attention for us to come to some sort of agreement. So I won't be able to say yes, we will go ahead and do that or no, because we need to get a general discussion done on this.
COUTTS: But what about the decree you feel might interfere with balance and transference reporting?
FEREI: Oh yes, I worry that once the state control on things, my worry is that reporters on the field or those that are really on the field. It will always be at the back of their mind. And we have not recently met with reporters themselves. We have just come into a new project firm and our project period will run for the next three years and we're still working on communication rights, more specifically, freedom of expression and opinion, as well as calling for press freedom. And this is the work that Fiji Media Watch is going to focus in the next three years.
I just hope that I'll be able to, that I'll be able to meet with groups that are directly involved with media, that organisations like Fiji Media Watch and those that are working on the ground will be able to come to some discussion soon and if there's training that's going to happen, that Fiji Media Watch will be invited to this training or consultations or dialogue, whatever they call it so that we can continue to move on with our work.
But as an organisation, we will continue to promote the communication rights of citizens.