Women's rights organisations have raised new concerns about freedom of expression in Fiji, following self-censorship of media advertising. Local newspapers felt unable to print a paid advertisement by a group of women’s rights organisations, which has worrying implications for promoting open debate and discussion during this period of democratic transition in Fiji.
The advertisement was to raise their concerns about the Constitutional processes.
"We had prepared a paid advertisement and tried to place it in both the daily newspapers but neither have agreed to publish it. The advertisement was a summary of a press release that we had prepared several weeks ago which raises certain questions about the constitution review process," said Shamima Ali, Coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre.
The FWCC, Fiji Women's Rights Movement and Femlink Pacific put together the joint statement and paid advertisement.
The initial press release and paid advertisement raised concerns around 4 main things:
1. the legitimacy of the constitution-making process set out in the two Fiji Constitutional Process Decrees (Nos 57 and 58) and its ability to deliver a fair and independent outcome to the people of Fiji
2. the non-negotiable principles that the State says the new Constitution must contain
3. the immunity provisions demanded by the State
4. the environment that restricts full participation and debate in a constitution-making process, in particular the continuing restrictive atmosphere in which the independent news media must operate.
"We believe that as citizens of this country we have the right to question the processes and raise our concerns. As we said in our proposed paid advertisement, we are concerned about the restrictive environment that prevents discussion and debate around the constitution-making process,” Ali said.
“This had been proven by the lack of coverage of our press release on this issue, and the reluctance of both major newspapers to run the paid advertisement.".
The women's groups say that if this Constitution making process is being done in the spirit of building a new way for Fiji then it should allow for free and open discussions and debates around the processes as well.
For any further queries please contact the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre