Civil society concerned over proposed bill to limit free speech ahead of elections
Civil society has expressed concern over proposed legislation, namely the Fiji Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2016 (Bill No. 28 of 2016) as Section 24 of the law includes a penalty of up to five years imprisonment or a 100,000 USD fine for "defaming, demeaning or undermining the sanctity of the parliament".
The Fiji Women's Rights Movement (FWRM) has declared that the proposed legislation contravenes Article 17 of Fiji's Constitution, which protects citizens' right to free speech and expression of opinion. The FWRM is also concerned that the language used in the bill is unclear and could be interpreted and applied arbitrarily.
On 4th May 2017, the NGO Coalition on Human Rights, which includes FWRM, issued a statement on the bill, asserting that as Fiji prepares for its 2018 general elections:
“It is therefore important for the government to enable a democratic space for members of the public to make contributions to political debates - either for government or criticising government, (Ministers, Members of Parliament and government employees in the performances of their roles) without the fear of being harassed or intimidated through legislation”.