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피지, 언론인 위협하는 ‘미디어 법’ 막아야 한다

최근 피지 정부는 정부에 비판적인 언론인을 최대 5년까지 징역형에 처할 수 있도록 새 미디어 법을 발의했다. 이 법안이 채택되면, 2009년 4월 이후 시행된 국가비상사태 규정 하에서 이미 협박·폭력의 위험과 언론 검열에 시달려온 피지 언론인들의 활동이 더욱 위축될 전망이다. 피지 정부는 오는 4월 13일 ‘피지 미디어 산업 발전 위원회’의 설립을 주 내용으로 하는 새로운 미디어 법의 채택여부를 결정하게 된다. 위원회는 지역 언론이 공공의 이익이나 질서를 위협하는 출판물을 발행할 수 없도록 언론인과 지역 방송국들을 조사하는 임무를 맡게 되며, 압류와 수색의 권한까지 갖는다.

새 미디어 법에 의하면 공공의 질서를 위협한 것으로 간주된 언론인은 최대 징역 5년 형에 처해지거나 더 이상의 언론활동이 불가능할 정도로 과도한 벌금이 부과된다.

국제앰네스티 아폴로시 보세(Apolosi Bose) 태평양 조사관은 “피지의 새 미디어 법은 정부 비판자들을 감옥에 넣거나 파산시킬 수 있는 면허를 정부 스스로에게 주게 될 것”이라며 비판했다. 특히 “‘공공의 이익’이나 ‘공공질서’와 같이 막연하게 규정된 조항들은 (자의적으로 악용될 가능성에 있기 때문에) 지도자, 보안군, 이들의 동료나 지지자들에 대한 비판을 원천 봉쇄하는 결과를 가져올 것”이라고 지적했다.

 

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Proposed Fiji media law threatens journalists with jail

Tuesday 13 April 2010

If adopted, a vaguely worded draft decree will extend and deepen the already widespread censorship provided under the Public Emergency Regulations.The Fijian government will be able to imprison journalists for up to five years, obliterating media freedom, if its Cabinet adopts a repressive draft Media Decree on Tuesday, said Amnesty International.

“The Fijian government is giving itself a license to imprison or bankrupt its critics. The decree will further restrain the media from reporting government and military abuses, for fear of reprisals through a kangaroo court,” said Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Apolosi Bose.

The decree will extend and deepen the already widespread censorship provided under the Public Emergency Regulations that have been in force since April 2009.

“Fijian journalists have already been intimidated, threatened and assaulted by the military since media censorship was authorised in April 2009. Now they could face up to five years in jail or fines big enough shut down a media outlet, through a complaints system controlled by government and not bound by formal rules of evidence,” said Apolosi Bose.

The draft decree was rushed through a three-day consultation, and will likely be approved by the Fijian government in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. If made law, the government will exert greater control of media content and media ownership through a powerful new media authority; and journalists, editors and media organisations will be able to be jailed by a tribunal headed by a Presidential appointee.

Amnesty International said it believes that the decree’s vaguely worded provisions will be interpreted with a view to punishing peaceful critics of the government.

“Going by past experience, the decree’s generic references to national interest and public order simply mean that the media will not be allowed to criticize Fiji’s leaders, members of the security forces, or their supporters and associates,” said Apolosi Bose.

The Fiji Media Industry Development Authority, to be set up under the draft decree, is tasked with ensuring that local media do not publish material that threatens public interest or order; is against the national interest; offends good taste and decency; or creates communal discord. It will have wide powers of investigation over journalists and media outlets, including powers of search and seizure of equipment.

The proposed Media Tribunal will decide complaints referred by the Authority, and will be able to impose five year jail terms, and fines of up to USD50,000 for journalists and editors, and USD250,000 for media organisations. Despite these highly punitive powers, it will not be bound by formal rules of evidence.

A three-day consultation with media representations on the draft decree ended last week, and has been widely considered a sham. Participants were given only two and a half hours to read the 50-page document before they were asked to make comments and submissions on the draft decree. They were not permitted to take away copies for circulation.

The Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has indicated the Fijian government’s intention to ‘expeditiously’ pass the draft decree into law, and President Voreqe Frank Bainamarama has told opponents of the decree to “change their mindset” in support of the national interest.

Past actions of the government have shown that it does not have any real commitment to upholding media freedom. Since the military takeover in December 2006, intimidation and threats against journalists and editors of local and overseas media outlets have been the norm. Several overseas journalists and expatriate editors have been deported from 2008.

The abrogation of the Constitution in April 2009 saw a renewed crackdown on freedom of expression and increased censorship under the Public Emergency Regulations. These emergency laws have been regularly renewed since then.

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