News Ltd slams new Fiji media law as ‘assault on free speech’

News Ltd has slammed as “an appalling assault on free speech” a new Fijian law which may force the company to give up its ownership of The Fiji Times.

After the law – which intends all Fiji-based media organisations to be 90% locally owned – was passed today, News Ltd issued this statement:  

News Limited expressed outrage today at the Fiji government’s decision to force media organisations in Fiji to be 90 per cent locally-owned in three months.

The move is devastating for the 180 staff of The Fiji Times, which has been owned and run by News Limited for the last 23 years.

The order is contained in The Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which was gazetted into Fiji law today, despite months of protests from News Limited.

The Fiji Times is a vital source of independent news, current affairs, information and entertainment for all Fijians.

Staff at the paper have already endured censorship, physical intimidation and the deportation of two successive Managing Directors in 2008 and 2009.

News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan described the Decree as “an appalling assault on free speech and a terrible blow for the fragile economy of Fiji.”

“This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji’s reputation as an attractive investment opportunity.

“This is an outrageous precedent that will make foreign investors in other industries very nervous about their involvement and support there.”

News Limited has argued that its involvement in Fiji is enormously beneficial to the country, through the injection of capital and management skills to build a modern printing business, training for printers and journalists, and opportunities to bring Fiji to the attention of the world.

Mr Hartigan commented that News Limited would “now explore any options it may have to remain involved in media in Fiji”

“We will fight while we still can, but there is no doubt that this move is designed to force our hand in selling the business and pulling out of Fiji altogether.

“This is a very sad day for News Limited, and sadder still for the fine management, staff, readers and clients of The Fiji Times.

“It will also put at risk the jobs of close to 200 people working for us in Suva, Nadi and Labasa, and threaten more than a thousand others whose livelihood is based on selling our newspapers,” he said.


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