Pacific Media Watch

18 September 2014

FIJI: Elections minister accused of defying own 48-hour media blackout

Hero image
MIDA says it is probing an alleged breach of the 48 hour media elections blackout. Image: PMC

SUVA (Radio New Zealand International / Pacific Media Watch): Fiji's media regulation authority says it is  investigating an alleged breach of the 48-hour media blackout by the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

The FBC ran a link on their site to the advert for former military coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama's party, Fiji First, the day before the election. The Fiji First general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who also is Minister Responsible for the Elections, paid for the link.

Bainimarama was criticised during the election for breaching many of his own draconian electoral rules.

He reportedly breached his own decree which said election candidates may not campaign without registering their parties first and was also being investigated for allegedly displaying Fiji's coat of arms on his Fiji First party campaign bus, in breach of the Coat of Arms of Fiji Act.

However, it is unclear if the investigations were completed.

The FBC has told the Media Industry Development Authority that the advert was taken down three days before the election but that they would investigate.

Widely criticised
The 48-hour media blackout has been widely criticised by the Pacific Media Centre and Reporters Sans Frontieres as unenforceable, draconian and as censorship on a scale that is completely out of proportion.

The PMC and RSF have also made a written submission to the UN Human Rights Council on the state of freedom of expression and access to information in Fiji.

Under the blackout rule, section 63 says everyone is prohibited from communicating political messages by telephone, internet, email, social media or other electronic means 48 hours before polling opens. A penalty of 10 years in prison or a fine of US$ 27,000 applies. The Fiji Law Society criticised the decree, saying it could open individuals up to phone and internet monitoring by the government.

Meanwhile, five opposition parties have rejected the election results, which currently give former military coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama a commanding 60 percent of the vote. The opposition parties say there has been a "co-ordinated and systematic effort" by the government to defraud Fijians of a free and fair election.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons