SUVA (The Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch): Stop being selective when choosing which media organisation you want to talk to, the Fiji Media Industry Development Authority director, Ashwin Raj, has advised parliamentarians.
Speaking at the Parliamentary Masterclass training organised this week, Raj said MPs had a responsibility to talk to all media organisations and not be biased. He said by talking to all media outlets, MPs would enable journalists to carry out balanced reporting.
He said a free, responsible, accountable and robust media was critical in fostering a culture of deep and deliberative democracy.
“Unlike many other constitutional jurisdictions that deem the guaranteeing of freedom of speech, expression and publication to entail implicitly freedom of the press, the Fijian Constitution through its Bill of Rights, unequivocally recognises freedom of the press as pivotal in the materialisation of freedom of speech, expression, thought, opinion and publication,” Raj said.
He said freedom of the press must not be reduced to simply the freedom of journalists, editors or proprietors alone.
“Rather it is an embodiment of the public's right to know and participate in the flow of information or the democratisation of the flow of information.”
Raj said a strong statutory framework was important in creating an environment that protected the rights of the media while ensuring that public interest and individual rights were not impinged.
He said striking the right balance between freedom of speech and standards of responsibility, decency and quality must be given due consideration.
“We must recognise that the media is an important conduit between the public and the Parliament in facilitating the flow of information between citizens and their elected representatives and governments,” he said.
Raj is concurrently newly appointed director of the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director.
Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni told the media masterclass Parliamentary debates should be reported accurately and fairly.
Dr Luveni said media organisations, in their news reports, should provide the public with enough details so they were able to make better and informed decisions.
“Given the important role of the media, it has been the link between Parliament and the public, their pursuit of the positive ideals to encourage, promote and facilitate development of media standards in relation to parliamentary reporting should be commended,” Dr Luveni said.
“The media must ensure there is free flow of information and that it interprets information accurately because it has a watchdog function and often informs public opinion and debate.”
Dr Luveni said as part of its duties and responsibilities, the media should be truthful, fair and objective.
In relation to Fiji's Parliament, the media certainly had important roles to play.
“To cover Parliament, it is important the media know the laws, understand parliamentary procedure, systems and processes of how Parliament operates in order to understand what transpires during a parliamentary sitting, know about the politicians and the political parties involved and have a solid knowledge of parliamentary history and proceedings in the Fijian context,” said Dr Luveni.
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