Saturday, December 6, 2008

Making the Fiji media more transparent

IS FIJI well served by its Media Council? Not proactive enough, say some. Not visible enough, say others. Has the complaints process been rigorous enough? Is it really doing its job on behalf of media freedom? Is the relationship with the industry too cosy in the public mind? For self-regulation to work fairly and in a balanced way, it has to be seen to be genuinely working in the interests of all stakeholders in the Fourth Estate - and that includes the grassroots public, not just the owners, publishers and broadcasters. One of the more reflective Fiji journalists to emerge in the country's moment of need is Fiji Times associate editor Sophie Foster who gave a thought-provoking speech at the annual awards of the University of the South Pacific's regional journalism programme. While presenting a measured overview of how hell-bent the regime is on pushing through the misguided media law promulgation - and it is all about drafting a law before consultation - Foster said it was about time the self-regulatory Media Council was reviewed:

We suggest a far better approach, and one that will not end up costing the government anything, is to review the Media Council itself, including ways to streamline its processes and make its complaints mechanism more proactive and efficient – and ultimately more effective.
We believe that self-regulation is the way to go. But we also recognise that our detractors believe that self-regulation makes the industry a law unto itself. It is necessary to remove these fears and allay all suspicions in this regard.
As such, the media must make itself more transparent and more accessible to members of the public.

Ironically, this view echoes a conclusion I had reached in a paper - Freedom of the gatekeepers - comparing the 2007 reviews of the NZ Press Council and the Fiji media (Anthony report) presented at the Public Right to Know 7 conference in Sydney in mid-October.

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