News from Pacific Media Watch

Source: PMW.  With thanks to the girls. 


By correspondent Kerri Ritchie

(ABC Online/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji’s self-appointed leaders have told journalists in the country that they must “get on board” and adopt an edict the military regime is calling “the journalism of hope”.

Fiji’s interim Indigenous Affairs minister and former military forces commander, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was today sworn in as Vice-President.

”Where there are disputes, reconciliation. Where there is error, truth. Where there is despair, hope,” he said.

The military regime has told Fiji-based journalists who do stories for foreign media outlets that they must “behave”.

It has asked reporters to adopt what it is calling “the journalism of hope”, which involves only doing positive stories.

Journalists were told if they did not cooperate, new regulations censoring the media may be extended.

Earlier this week, three foreign journalists, including veteran ABC reporter Sean Dorney, were expelled from the country.


AUCKLAND (ABC Online/Pacific Media Watch): LISA MILLAR: Fiji this evening remains under emergency rule and Frank Bainimarama, the man who made himself leader after a 2006 coup, is still very much calling the shots.

He’s not fazed by threats from Australia and New Zealand to have Fiji expelled from the Commonwealth.

And journalists and others critical of the regime continue to be hauled before police for questioning.

Radio broadcasts are still being blocked and every day Fijians are reading newspapers that have been censored by the military.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports:

KERRI RITCHIE: Here in New Zealand, the Dominion Post newspaper is running an opinion piece about Fiji.

The author, Rosemary McLeod, writes.

(Excerpt from Dominion Post opinion piece)

ROSEMARY MCLEOD (voiceover): I do not care about Fiji. The country is a basket case with far too many military uniforms to go around.

(End of excerpt)

KERRI RITCHIE: She has a suggestion on how to deal with Fiji’s military leaders.

ROSEMARY MCLEOD (voiceover): I say ignore them. News coverage only goes to their heads and the world’s disapproval delights them.

KERRI RITCHIE: The writer is clearly trying to be controversial, and get a laugh or two. But if she worked in Fiji, she’d most likely be sitting in a police cell right now.

The interim government has brought in new rules, allowing it to censor local reporters and deport foreign media.

Information is still getting out, via blogs and text messages.

A Fijian man, who’s a blogger with the Intelligentsiya website, spoke to Radio New Zealand this morning on the condition that his voice would be distorted to protect his identity.

RADIO NEW ZEALAND REPORTER: What kind of pressures are you working under?

FIJIAN MAN: We’ve been working under immense pressure not only from the Ministry of Information but from the military. We understand the military have their IT department in full swing, trying to monitor us.

RADIO NEW ZEALAND REPORTER: Aren’t you and the other bloggers scared of being found out?

FIJIAN MAN: As human beings the thought has crossed our minds. We can’t say we are not fearful.

KERRI RITCHIE: Brij Lal is a Pacific specialist with the Australian National University.

BRIJ LAL: The intent of the interim administration is to keep its own people in the dark in Fiji.

Australia cannot really ignore the South Pacific region. It has strong trade links with Fiji. A lot of people from Fiji are living in Australia. So Australia has an obligation to be involved.

Sooner rather than later what is your backyard problem will become your frontyard problem.

KERRI RITCHIE: Sean Dorney is the ABC’s long-time Pacific correspondent.

He was kicked out of Fiji earlier this week. The interim government didn’t like his stories.

SEAN DORNEY: What the government is doing is letting everybody know they are not going to tolerate anything that might lead to any disturbance.

KERRI RITCHIE: Sean Dorney says the military regime called a meeting yesterday and outlined some strict rules for reporters who provide stories to media outlets outside Fiji.

SEAN DORNEY: They have to behave. If they didn’t behave the emergency might be extended. They were told to get on board and collaborate with the military administration and they were also told that they should adopt what is now being called apparently by this new administration – journalism that doesn’t criticise the government; it’s now in Fiji called “the journalism of hope”.

KERRI RITCHIE: Sean Dorney says the press release sent out by the interim government inviting foreign journalists to visit is a joke.

SEAN DORNEY: Laughter, I think, is my reaction to it. Journalists are going to be judged on what they’ve previously written about Fiji. So if you’ve written anything at all that isn’t totally in favour of Bainimarama’s continued rule, you won’t be allowed in.

So it’s probably open season in Fiji for travel writers but no-one else is going to get in.

KERRI RITCHIE: Sean Dorney says unless something big happens in Fiji, the political crisis won’t be front page news next week.

He hopes people don’t forget about the small group of Fijian journalists, many of them young, who are being threatened and intimidated on a daily basis, for just trying to do their job.

SEAN DORNEY: The dangers facing them if they continue to report to the world what is going on in Fiji in a totally unbiased and factual manner, the danger for them is very real.

LISA MILLAR: That’s the ABC’s Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney ending the report from Kerri Ritchie.


WELLINGTON (RNZ Online/Pacific Media Watch): A senior Waikato University lecturer says the New Zealand government’s foreign policy towards Fiji may be undermining that country’s progress towards democracy.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has described the situation in Fiji as unpredictable and volatile. Fiji’s president revoked the constitution and sacked the judiciary after the Court of Appeal ruled the regime in power since a military coup in 2006 was illegal.

However, David Neilson, a member of the Commission of Inquiry into Fiji’s 2006 election, says New Zealand could be doing more to create a robust electoral system for Fiji.

On the Sunday Group, Neilson said there were many technical issues to overcome in order for Fiji to remove “bias and corruption” in its electoral system.

He said New Zealand had a huge amount of expertise which could help Fiji create a robust electoral system.


SUVA (TA Online/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji’s Media Council has made formal submissions to the Prime Minister asking him to revoke the country’s censorship laws.

The country’s military ruler has suspended the constitution and imposed martial law and he is censoring the media for a month.

News outlets are not allowed to report anything critical of the government.

Media Council chair Daryl Tarte says they held a meeting this past week to discuss a response to the censorship and have made confidential submissions to Frank Bainimarama.

He says they have not been given an indication of when the Prime Minister will reply.

Tarte says in the meantime, mainstream media are continuing to abide by the censorship laws.


AUCKLAND (RNZ Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Fiji-New Zealand Business Council is urging foreign governments to be cautious about issuing trade sanctions and travel warnings.

Fjii is under emergency rule. Military leader Frank Bainimarama has tightened media censorship and refuses to hold elections before 2014.

Business council’s Mark Hirst, who is based in Suva, says he understands that other governments will target Fiji’s regime.

But he says they need to be careful that they don’t affect people who have nothing to do with the military.

New Zealand exports to Fiji are worth about $NZ360 million each year and Hirst says trade sanctions would have a big effect on the economy there.

However, Hirst says limited information is making it difficult to know how businesses are actually coping. He says finding out information is especially hard because New Zealand no longer has a high commissioner or trade commissioner in Fiji.

God bless Fiji


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