The Chairman of the Media Industry Development Authority says the arrest of journalists sadly attests to the need to have robust discussions about constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, responsibilities that come with it and its impact on the freedom of expression landscape in Fiji.
Ashwin Raj has said in a statement that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech, expression, and publication.
Raj says in exercising these rights, everyone under the Constitution has the right to be free from arbitrary arrests and detention however he stresses that the right to publication comes with responsibility.
The Chairman of MIDA says section 15 (a) of the Public Order Act expressly provides under Malicious Acts that “any person who maliciously fabricated or knowingly spreads abroad or publishes, whether by writing or by word of mouth or otherwise, any false news or false report tending to create or foster public alarm, public anxiety or disaffection or to result in the detriment of the public”.
Ashwin Raj says journalists must take responsibility for the fact that when you publish material that impugns institutions and individuals and in this case, allegedly casting aspersions on the independence of the judiciary, there are serious consequences not only in terms of the rule of law but also the fact that it adversely affects everyone’s ability to enjoy freedom of expression without fear of fear of reprisal and recrimination.
Raj says while the police are constitutionally obligated to uphold the rule of law, it is incumbent on journalists to abide by the ethics of their profession.
He says they must exercise impartiality and ascertain the veracity of claims at all times and in this case should have approached the judiciary prior to publishing in the interests of being balanced, fair and accurate.
The MIDA Chairman says we must endeavour to have a robust freedom of expression landscape in Fiji and for this to happen it is critical that everyone understands that in performing their respective duties of upholding institutions and individuals to account, they must exercise responsibility because we can neither afford to have a chilling effect on freedom of expression nor can we act as if we are above the law.Listen to the latest news on our 5 radio stations Legend FM, Viti FM, Radio Sargam, FM96 and Navtarang.