Fiji media editors and news directors with the Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Fiji Paul Wilson at the launch of the Fijian Press Club logo and World Press Freedom Day celebration at Albert Park. Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

SUVA (FIJI TIMES) — Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has berated the Fiji Media Association(FMA) and heads of three local media organisations for dragging their feet on attending Fijian Elections Office training sessions.

At a press conference on Sunday, a representative from the media asked the AG to respond to the FMA’s concerns about how the amendment to media legislation had the potential to cause undue interference into the integrity and independence of the Fijian media.

In response, Sayed-Khaiyum asked the reporter to explain how the amendments affected media independence.

“I’m asking you because you are asking the question,” the AG said.

“Stanley Simpson (MaiTV CEO and FMA president) has not even attended the Fijian Elections Office training session.

“Here you have the organisation supposedly representing the media organisations not attending.

“I think most of the editors have not.” I think only last week they attended the meeting – CFL (Communications Fiji Limited) went, Fred Wesley (The Fiji Times editor-in-chief) went and Stanley went – but earlier on they did not go.

“What has this got to do with independence when you actually have a provision in the law that says foreigners should not own majority of the shares in any Fijian media organisation – isn’t that a good thing?

“What this does, it means that you cannot in the back doorway, for example, allow a foreign organisation to run a Fijian media organisation – have they mentioned that at all?

“They haven’t mentioned that at all nor have they given any examples as to how it affects the independence of any media organisation.”

Since the law has been passed, has your work been in any way affected? How you are reporting has it been affected? Your editorial control has it been affected?

“Unless of course you can tell me that editorial content was done by somebody outside the organisation.”

Meanwhile, Attorney-General and FijiFirst party general secretary Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says unlike other political entities, they are an inclusive organisation when it comes to inviting media representatives to press conferences.

“I also want to say unlike other political parties, we don’t stop any media organisation from coming to our press conferences,” he said.

“I understand that when NFP (National Federation Party) had the announcement of their candidates on Friday, they stopped two media organisations — Fiji Sun and FBC. We don’t do that.

“We do get questions from The Fiji Times right at the eleventh hour, asking us questions. “We of course sometimes cannot do that, in particular when we’re sitting in Parliament.

“Whenever we have the opportunity, we do respond to questions and we continue to respond to questions.”

The A-G, however, said they would not necessarily respond to “tick the box”.

“The other point of course is that, as we said previously, we are not here to simply fill in the blanks.

“If people are wanting to just tick a box so they can say that they spoke to us but not actually take anything that we say on board, or they have already written half the story or three quarters of the story and want to say that they spoke to somebody from the Government side just to tick that box — obviously we will not necessarily take their questions very seriously.

“But we are here to answer any of those questions and if you do want to ask those questions, you need to send it to us in a timely fashion, in particular sending us written questions then we can respond to them.”

The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley said the A-G had been mostly unresponsive to questions sent by reporters from this newspaper. Some emailed questions sent several months ago remained unanswered.

He welcomed the effort now to respond to questions asked of the Government, and said it was a positive development.

Wesley said the newspaper always strived to disseminate information that was accurate, fair and balanced…. PACNEWS

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