Meeting at their Annual General Assembly on 13 September 2010 in Vienna, Austria, the IPI members unanimously noted with dismay the continuing deterioration of the press freedom climate in Fiji over the past months.

Fiji’s “Media Industry Development Decree 2010” was gazetted by the government on 25 June 2010 and entered into force four days later. The draconian law establishes criminal penalties for journalists whose work is deemed to be against the “public interest or order.” Offences by individuals are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 FJD (approx. €4,000) or imprisonment of up to two years. The penalty for any company may be as high as $100,000 FJD (approx. €39,000).

The decree limits foreign ownership of the media to no more than 10 percent, a clause widely seen as an attack against the Fiji Times, the country’s oldest newspaper, which has repeatedly been critical of Interim Prime Minister and Military Commander Frank Bainimarama and their administration.

All media have until Sept. 28 to ensure that their foreign ownership is reduced to 10 percent, or face closure. The Fiji Times is 100 percent foreign-owned and has been put up for sale after the decree.

The decree also mandates creation of a Media Authority, whose chairman will be appointed by the President on the advice of the Attorney General, and which has the authority to impose fines or jail terms on journalists. All media are required to register with the authority before a set deadline.

The International Press Institute strongly condemns the Fijian authorities’ crackdown on the media, and various attempts to control the news media through regulatory and other forms of harassment.