Media Industry Development Act Repealed
The Media Industry Development Act 2010 (“MIDA”) was repealed by Fiji’s Parliament on 6 April 2023 through a majority vote for the motion to repeal MIDA under Parliamentary Standing Order 51. MIDA had established the Media Industry Development Authority (“Media Authority”) which regulated Media Organizations and its media contents in the country. The Media Authority had its functions set out in section 8 of MIDA which, amongst other things, were to “ensure that media services in Fiji are maintained at a high standard in all respects”.
Prior to its repeal, the MIDA, under section 22 mandated that any media service must not include material which is against public interest or order; is against national interest; or creates communal discord. MIDA made it an offence for any media organization that breaches section 22. The Media Authority had the responsibility and authority to conduct investigations into media organizations either upon the receipt of a complaint from any person under section 53 or if there was some suspicion that of a media organization breaching any provision of MIDA. The Media Authority could also apply for search warrants under section 27 of MIDA to enter, search and seize in pursuance of its investigations.
The penalties under MIDA for a breach of section 22 attracted a summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 in the case of a media organization or in the case of a publisher or editor – a fine not exceeding $25,000 or an imprisonment not exceeding two years or both. MIDA had also established a “Media Tribunal” under section 44 which had the jurisdiction to hear and determine any complaints against any media organization in Fiji for any breach under MIDA.
MIDA had four schedules which provided specific codes of ethics and practice, general codes of practice for advertisements, codes for advertising to children, and codes for television program specification. The four schedules of MIDA were quite exhaustive. For instance, Clause 3 of schedule 1 of MIDA, amongst other things, stated that the publication of the private lives of individuals “without their consent is acceptable only if a legitimate public interest outweighs their normal right to privacy”. Clause 3 of schedule 1 further goes on to say that the public interest must be serious and proper public interest and “not mere curiosity”.
The announcement of the repeal of MIDA has been welcomed by a majority of Fiji’s media organizations and representatives from local media organizations have set the ball rolling to revive Fiji’s Media Council which was last operational prior to 2010.