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IFJ cautiously welcomes end of Public Emergency Regulations

(IFJ/IFEX) - January 3, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) cautiously welcomes the announcement on New Year's Day by Fiji's authorities that the country's Public Emergency Regulations will end on January 7.

During his New Year's address to the nation, Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced that the regulations, in place since April 2009, will be removed to allow preparations for the drafting of a new national constitution.

Under the “temporary” Public Emergency Regulations imposed by Fiji's authorities, the regime and its authorities decide what fair, balanced and quality journalism is. The decree allows officers authorised by a government appointed media authority and tribunal to enter newsrooms and media offices to seize any documentation, materials or equipment on the basis of vaguely defined complaints, or even where no formal complaint has been laid.

Thousands of news reports have been censored by the tribunal since the regulations were introduced. Self-censorship is also widespread in Fiji as a result of the laws.

In June 2010, authorities permanently installed the regulation's censorship regime by enacting the Media Industry Development Decree.

Workers' rights have also been under attack from Fiji's authorities. The Essential National Industries Employment Decree on September 7, 2011 and the Essential National Industries and Designated Corporations Regulations on September 8, 2011 diminish workers' rights and remove many of the conditions guaranteed by International Labour Organisation conventions ratified by Fiji.

It is unclear if Bainimarama's commitment to end the Public Emergency Regulations also covers those elements of the regulations now enshrined in these other laws and decrees.

“The IFJ welcomes Fiji authorities' promise to end the Public Emergency Regulations, which it imposed 'temporarily' in April 2009,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“However, we remain cautious until the regime of censorship currently enacted through the Media Industry Development Decree is also repealed.”

“Until the removal of the media decree, journalists working in Fiji will continue to come under threat from the government, and press freedom will continue to be undermined.”

“The IFJ also encourages Fiji's authorities to immediately repeal the Essential National Industries Employment Decree, and its associated regulations, and implement workplace legislation in line with the ILO conventions ratified by Fiji.”

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