Today marks an important date on the human rights calendar as we celebrate World Press Freedom Day; a day dedicated to raise awareness on the protection of the freedom of expression, opinion, thought and publication. These are rights protected within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), The Republic of Fiji’s 2013 Constitution as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Fiji has ratified.
This year’s theme is “Journalism Under Digital Siege. The theme is relevant to today as the journalism sector finds itself challenged by restrictions and forms of digital attacks on journalists.
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Louchrisha Hussain states that journalists need to work independently and impartially while keeping citizens informed. To support the work of journalists, they must be able to operate in an environment that allows creativity, analytical thinking and balanced reporting.
In Fiji’s third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which reviews the status of human rights in a country, Fiji had supported a few recommendations in 2019 concerning the freedom of opinion, expression and the right to information. For instance, a recommendation received from the United States of America highlighted that Fiji safeguards freedom of expression by ensuring that criminal and speech related legislations are not misused to suppress media, civil society and opposition politicians’ discourse of the government.
“We acknowledge Fiji government’s support towards such recommendations but by reviewing legislations, we are able to identify areas that need reform to strengthen the protection of the media, its independence, impartiality and professionalism.”
Ms. Hussain adds that this has also been recommended by other states to Fiji during the third cycle of review however, the Fiji government has mostly responded that the country has strong constitutional provisions on such freedoms.
CCF commends the work of the media in Fiji especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and in times of natural disasters in keeping citizens informed.