Unpacking Fiji internet law narratives: Online safety or online regulation?
Commentary: It took approximately 6 seconds, with 27 votes against 14 on the 16 May 2018 at 5:03pm for the Fiji Parliament to pass the Online Safety Bill (Fijian Parliament, 2018b). Thereafter, the Bill came into force as the Online Safety Act, 2018 (Fijian Government, 2018), despite concerns about its impact on free speech. This commentary examines how the public was conditioned by certain prominent actors, such as the Attorney-General and Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) chair, with support from government-aligned media. The Online Safety Bill had been touted as legislation designed to protect Fijians from harmful online activities (Doviverata, 2018; Nacei, 2018). However, the Bill’s implementation was preceded by a set of supportive media-facilitated narratives that seems almost too convenient. This commentary scrutinises the series of media facilitated narratives that justified the Online Safety Act. The discussion briefly examines the connection between the media, blogs and social media in Fiji. It then explores the media facilitated narratives to provide a brief critique of the Act as a so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ for safety while risking responsible political free speech. Finally, it seeks to answer whether it is about online ‘Safety’ alone, or ‘Regulation’ of online media.
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