Editorial comment | A moment in history

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The newly formed Fiji Media Council meets heads of media organisations at The Fiji Times headquarters, Suva. Picture FELIX CHAUDHARY

Yesterday was an important day in the history of the Fiji media. Finally, after the repeal of the draconian legislation that had hung over the Fijian media since 2010, journalists and heads of media companies gathered in Suva to be part of the announcement of the Fiji Media Council.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade Manoa Kamikamica, officiating at the launch of the council at The Fiji Times conference room in Suva yesterday, said the important body comprised a diverse group of individuals committed to upholding the highest journalistic standards, defending media independence and freedom, and proactively addressing public concerns.

He said Parliament had repealed the Media Industry Development Authority Act (MIDA) on April 6, fulfilling the Coalition Government’s commitment to reinstate media freedom and for a more dynamic, accountable, and independent media industry in Fiji.

For the media, yesterday was about reflection, and hope for better days. Sure, people expect the media to now ask the tough questions. Sure, there is an expectation that demands aggressive journalism. The repeal opened a whole new scenario.

Politicians and people can now ask the tough questions and more freely voice opinions without media organisations fearing prosecution for publishing “against the national interest” or having to run through a minefield of petty rules designed only to control and intimidate.

While there are opinion columns earmarked for just that – opinions – there is an expectation that journalists will continue to be careful about allowing their personal opinions and speculation to influence their reporting.

They will be expected to report fairly, and with a sense of balance. There are rules to follow. There are special departments within newsrooms like investigative journalism that focus on uncovering abuse, corruption, and crimes.

What we have now is a great platform that should empower people to be part of the process of holding their Government to account.

And the newly set up Media Council is there to assist in the mechanics of empowering people, and ensuring the media is held to account as well, serving as a reminder that there are ideals and values of good journalism that we all must uphold.

It will serve as a sounding board for editors and journalists and provide an avenue for people to participate in the dissemination of information.

In the end what matters or should matter is that people are empowered to ask tough questions, and not have a cloud of fear and uncertainty hanging over their heads.

They have a platform to voice their concerns if they feel they have been unfairly treated. We reflect on civil liberties! If there is a change, then people being empowered to voice an opinion would rate quite highly.

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