Constraints imposed on the press inThe thrust of the article is that those who liken the crude system of press control introduced by the 2010 Fiji Media Decree to the subtle and insidious system in Singapore are greatly mistaken. The government in Singapore has developed and continually tightened its grip on that country's press over the past 40 years or so. Newspaper companies are required by the 1974 Newspaper and Printing Presses Act to trade shares on the stock exchange. A number of management shares are required to be held by the government, which as a result is entitled to appoint directors to the company's board. The resulting top-down control has brought self-censorship which has been called 'Singapore's shame'. The foreign press has been brought to heel by a series of economic disincentives to criticise the Singapore regime, including huge damage awards for libel awarded by a captive judiciary and the banning or limiting of circulation for offending publications.
Fijiunder the 2010 Media Decree have been compared with the system of press control in Singapore. The two systems are, however, quite different. The type of hegemonic control that has been achieved in Singaporeis unlikely to be replicated in Fiji. The press in Singaporewas brought to heel over a period of decades through regulation, including licensing, and legal intimidation in a sophisticated system that utilizes corporate control to ensure that journalists exercise self-censorship. A military dictatorship in place in Fijisince 2006 instead criminalized journalism ethics in the Media Decree and has engaged in repression and censorship of journalists. Fiji’s press system, and the regime’s attempts to control it, were the subject of intense scrutiny in advance of elections planned for September 2014.
Friday, January 24, 2014
Singapore-style press control? Not in Fiji
My article comparing press control systems in Fiji and Singapore has now been published online by Sage and will be forthcoming in the April issue of the A-ranked journal International Communication Gazette, which is published out of the Netherlands. It is a revised version of a paper I presented at the 2011 Fiji Literary Festival. Here's the abstract:
So how did the misconception arise that
Media Decree was patterned after Singapore's
repressive press model? It likely began with the controversial 2008 Anthony
Report, which urged that 'wise restraints . . . be culled from the Singapore legislation
on the establishment of a Media Development Authority.' The dictator then called on the media to be more like the Singapore media,
'not pro this Government or any government but pro-Fiji nation.' Many thus assumed
that the resulting Media Decree was patterned after Singapore's
system, and the myth was perpetuated by a Radio Australia interview. A
comparison of the Media Decree with Singapore
legislation published in the Pacific Journalism Review concluded that
'many of the sections were copied word-for-word' from Singapore's 2003
Media Development Act. The comparison, which was authored by a prominent Fiji
public relations executive while he was a graduate student at in Bond
was correct as far as it went. It failed to apprehend, however, that Singapore's Media
Development Act regulated only broadcasting and online media. Newspapers were
regulated by the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. How did that gaffe slip through the peer-review process? No wonder PJR is a B-ranked journal.