Tag Archive | Media Freedom

Commonwealth calls for withdrawal of military from Fiji’s govt

26 April 2013, London

1. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) held its thirty-ninth meeting in London on 26 April 2013.

2. The meeting was chaired by Hon Dr Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. It was also attended by Senator the Hon Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia; Hon John Baird, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Canada; Hon A J Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica; Hon Dr Abdul Samad Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives; Hon Dr Samura Kamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone; Hon Bernard K Membe, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of Tanzania; Hon Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago; and Hon Nipake Edward Natapei, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Vanuatu.

3. CMAG welcomed the recent adoption by Heads of Government, and signature by The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, of the Charter of the Commonwealth, encapsulating the core values and principles of the Commonwealth. It noted that the Charter reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment inter alia to democracy, human rights, the rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of expression, good governance, tolerance, respect and understanding and the role of civil society. As the custodian of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, the Group pledged to continue to promote these commonly agreed goals.

4. The Group reviewed developments in relation to the country currently on its formal agenda, Fiji.


5. CMAG reiterated the Commonwealth’s unwavering solidarity with the people of Fiji, and CMAG’s commitment to Fiji’s reinstatement as a full member of the Commonwealth family, through the restoration of constitutional democracy, the rule of law and human rights, in accordance with the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth.

6. Ministers expressed their regret at the Government of Fiji’s diversion from the previously-agreed constitutional process, which had earlier been welcomed by CMAG and which had attracted widespread public engagement and confidence within Fiji.

7. CMAG called on the Government of Fiji to ensure that the steps now undertaken toward restoring constitutional democracy are credible and inclusive, and similarly enjoy the confidence and support of the people of Fiji, including:

a. a transparent and consultative process to achieve a constitution that accords with Commonwealth and internationally-accepted standards for democracy, good governance and the rule of law, and that genuinely enjoys the endorsement of the people of Fiji;

b. the restoration of the structures necessary for credible elections, including an independent Election Management Body;

c. the ability of political parties and candidates to contest elections freely under fair and consistent rules and on a level playing field;

d. withdrawal of the military from involvement in government; and

e. full respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms in accordance with international law and without undue restriction, including freedoms of speech, association and movement, and a free and independent media.

8. The Group expressed concern about ongoing restrictions on human rights and reports of human rights abuse in Fiji, and emphasised the necessity of full respect for human rights and the rule of law, to create the environment necessary for credible elections.

9. CMAG noted the visit to Fiji undertaken by the Pacific Islands Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group on 12 April 2013, and reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s commitment to continuing to work in co-operation with regional and international partners in relation to the Fiji situation.

10. CMAG encouraged the Commonwealth to remain engaged with Fiji in appropriate ways, including the Secretary-General’s ongoing engagement with the Government of Fiji and other stakeholders, also encompassing further exploration of options for the provision of assistance to Fiji in relation to democracy and the rule of law.

God bless Fiji

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

So iArse got the green light for his casinos.  What can this possibly bring about, other than the further ruination of our once-promising nation?  “Fiji Fantastic”, so the ads used to say. That possibility is now so far out of our reach it seems almost as though it never was.

Gambling. Readers may recall back in mid 2009 Dr Wadan Narsey released a far-reaching analysis into how badly the new illegal regime was performing.  Many others besides predicted how this regime would start rotting our infrastructure. Discombobulated Bubu hit the nail on the head with her Boiling Frog series. Solivakasama (under Kutu, as it was at the time) held many forum discussions on the true corruption of this illegitimate regime. Well, the regime is no longer even pretending to care about moral fibre, and is instead looking at gambling as an easy avenue to a quick buck. (iArse – will you never learn? THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EASY MONEY!)

Let’s revisit the facts.

  1. Alleged corruption. When OmniVore illegally took control of our government, he claimed that he was doing so in order to root out corruption blah blah blah. [Anti-IIR bloggers will know that his actual motive was to avoid prosecution for the murder of the CRW soldiers who died in custody. Then Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes (arguably Fiji’s most successful PC) had compiled his dossier and handed it to the DPP’s office. OmniVore got wind of this, through his chum and co-conspirator the malodorous Chodokant, and threatened to hold a coup-d’etat. If only we’d sacked him when we had the chance!]
  2. Qarase Not Guilty. Since OmniVore took over the reigns of power, not one IIR allegation against the Qarase government has been brought to light, or proven. Not one.
  3. Economic death. Since OmniVore took over the reigns of power, Fiji’s economy has plummeted. Whereas under the democratically elected Qarase multi-party government our economy was not only thriving but growly steadily, OmniVore has only been able to keep the country afloat by under-the-table deals like selling off our foreign assets without declaring them (WTF happened to our embassy in New York?) or selling off our mineral, forestry or fisheries resources without declaring them. They are taking non-transparent loans from mainland China (which, as any switched-on African will tell you, is A Bad Idea), asking the IMF for ridiculous loans and essentially throwing our nation so badly into debt that any democratically elected government who comes in after them will have such an enormous and ingrained mess to clean up that it may not be achieved in our lifetime.
  4. Real corruption. OmniVore and his junta are self-appointed, and unelected. They have no reason to perform well at their jobs, and no-one to kick them out for poor results and for this reason, the REAL rot has set in, right from the top. They are systematically crippling our media, the fourth estate, from reporting what is really happening in our government. As the saying goes, the fish stinks from the head. iArse’s own mother has migrated to NZ to escape her son’s double dealings. Anyone who thought that corruption was bad under previous governments (let’s face it, Fiji’s politics has never been snowy white, but at least we had the option before to throw them out when they were really useless – like we did to Chodokant) is watching the IIR in real shock.
  5. Real rot. And now the rot sets in. Whereas before, Fiji’s crime problems stretched as far as home incursions, a fledgling drug trade in the hill tribes, prostitution in the main towns and of course unsustainable illegal fishing in our waters, we are now looking at an entirely new ball game. Fiji’s criminal underworld is now probably better organised than the government itself. Prostitution is all over the streets in any town within 5 hours’ journey of a Chinese workman (just enough time for him to – ahem – come, spend his money and return to work on his next shift). The drug trade has exploded to the point where every province now has a local drug lord who monitors the crop, keeps prying eyes at bay, tries to placate or neutralise the chiefs (some provinces, where a chief has died suspiciously before his or her time, there are tales told of foul play by the local drug lord). The unsustainable fishing has been able to move into broad daylight. Boat captains on the wharves hold clearly visible, bulging brown envelopes which are passed without question to officials who turn their blind eye to the portions of the haul that fall way over quota. How ironic is it that Fiji’s waters are at their most endangered under a naval officer? And without a free and unfettered media, we can only guess at the full extent of the rot.
  6. Gambling. And now, for iArse & OmniVore’s next chapter. Gambling. Not satisfied with the growth of organised crime, drugs, prostitution they now openly court the next addictive vice on their list. Gambling!

If you will forgive me for getting biblical for a moment, there is a story of the time Jesus found the moneychangers conducting their business in the temple of the Lord and, well, he basically lost it. Jesus’ passion, his righteous fury and the reported tantrum that followed, of overturning the tables, scattering the money to the floor, chasing them from what should have been hallowed, sacred and consecrated ground, has inspired believers, preachers, philosophers, artists and leaders alike. For the habitually reasonable and calm Jesus, this was the point at which he said ‘ENOUGH!’ and took a definite stand against the impending rot. Some scholars argue that it was this event which lead to his own people beginning to turn against him and planning schemes to hand him over to the Romans.

I like to think of Fiji as a land of God. The Almighty has given Fiji so many gifts, so many natural resources and precious, beautiful features. Traditionally, the Fijian people have seen ourselves as stewards of our land. We look after it in order to pass it on to our next generation.  This illegal regime takes a vastly different stand. Their only motive is to ravage and pillage Fiji for everything they can get. There is no thought for what will come after, or for the greater good of We The People. There is no consideration of their duty to the Almighty or how they should give thanks (real thanks, not the thanks of a thief) by multiplying the gifts that Fiji has to offer. No. Their only thought is of what they can take.

Why am I so angry about gambling being legalised in Fiji? Because, like the vices of drugs, sex/prostitution and  organised crime, once it has taken root, it will be very, very, very difficult to root out.

During the Qarase government, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre released a story on the real cost to the nation of domestic violence. They counted up the number of reported cases of domestic violence, the amount of hours it took to process a report, treat the victim, prosecute and fine or jail the aggressor. They calculated the hours taken up by police, doctors and nurses, magistrates and court officials, detention facilities. And they were able to tell us all the REAL cost of domestic violence in Fiji. It was in the millions.

The cost to the nation of treating the consequences of gambling and addicts to gambling will be vast. Gamblers suck up their own finances, and the finances of their families to feed their addiction. They turn to crime and, like drug addicts and the prostitution ‘industry’, they feed the cycle of violence that sustains those vices. Fiji will not become the Monte Carlo of the South Pacific. No. Our gamblers will not be the great and the good of ANZ, no. Our gamblers will be our poorest, most vulnerable and most tiresome individual burdens on the state (other than the IIR, of course).

This illegal regime is doing everything it can to bring about the systemic ruination of Fiji. What is next? What lower depths can they stoop to?  I would not be surprised if they work their way around to child pornography, if they are not there already. (I write this in a matter of fact way, but looking into the happy, carefree and innocent brown faces of our beautiful children, the future of our land, I am filled with a gripping horror.) How much further will they willingly push us?

Jesus took a stand. When will We The People decide enough is enough?

Tabu soro.

God bless Fiji

Egg on OmniVore’s face

So the Dictator could not resist gloating to the media for what he feels is a PR victory for him.

The man who is so accustomed to being told what he wants to hear, and only hearing what he wants to hear, refuses to understand that the foreign ministers and officials who are attending the meeting are doing so in order to voice their concerns with him. They have not come to Fiji to be OmniVore’s cheer leaders, no matter how much his ego longs for it to be so.

Want to show your distaste for the illegal regime? Why not write a message to each of the foreign ministers and officers attending the summit, photocopy the message and deliver it to their hotel?!  Tell them of your yearning to return to free and fresh elections. Tell them of your wish for a return to democracy. Tell them of how bright and prosperous our future was before OmniVore decided he wasn’t going to face trial for murder, and decided to act on his own lies and deceit.  Tell them your true opinion, thoughts, hopes and dreams.  Be sure NOT to put your name or identifying information on the messages, because the regime will no doubt persecute you for voicing your opinion (Big Brother SSJ’s is still trying to tap our mobile calls, don’t forget).

The Pacific won’t know how much We The People revile the illegal regime, unless we let them know. It is possible to argue fear of oppression and retaliation – but wouldn’t you rather try your hardest than live in fear?

Don’t give up the fight. Keep the faith.

God bless Fiji

Fiji’s dictator mustn’t get away with censorship attempt

THE internet, Rupert Murdoch famously declared in 1993, is “an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere”.

It was a comment that caused the Chinese to slam shut the door to Western media. Now, almost two decades on and in a much smaller pond, Murdoch is being invited to back up his words with deeds.

Can a bunch of internet-enabled freedom fighters or radio pirates bring down a dictator?

This is the question facing Usaia Waqatairewa, the Sydney-based president of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement, who has asked for support from News Limited, the Australian arm of Murdoch’s global News Corporation (publisher of The Australian.) He wants to take the fight for democracy up to Fiji’s military dictatorship, headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Bainimarama has issued a decree that orders News to sell down its 100 per cent ownership of the 141-year-old Fiji Times newspaper to no more than 10 per cent. His decree stipulates that 90 per cent of ownership of media properties must be in the hands of indigenous Fijians, resident in Fiji.
News was given a three-month deadline to comply. It has described the decree as “appalling”, “outrageous” and “a terrible blow to the fragile economy of Fiji” but has been otherwise measured in its response, calling in international accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise on values, potential for buyers and the like.

This approach is designed to provide the maximum possible protection to the 180 staff of the Times — editors, journalists and sales people who have already felt the hot breath of censorship and military intimidation for the past two years.

Bainimarama’s thugs have been censoring news since they took power in 2006, roughing up reporters and other staff, and ordering the deportation of two successive managing directors appointed from Australia. They also kicked out Australia’s acting high commissioner last week.

I can fully appreciate the need for a steady hand here, but Bainimarama’s actions invite some instinctive reactions: freedom of the press is paramount; dictators must never be allowed to get away with their self-serving censorship; and if there is a choice between kowtowing to their demands and standing up and fighting, a fight it must be.

It seems to me there’s little use in News looking for a Fijian national to buy 90 per cent of the Fiji Times. I’d guess a PwC valuation of the business would be in the region of $100 million, and not many locals would fit the bill on that basis. But even if there were a local buyer, that would mean the paper would have to live within the rules set down by the dictatorship — bending the news, giving in to the slice of the censor’s knife and abandoning its duty to its audience. It’s either that or the owner faces years of imprisonment. It could be argued that, in the event of a sale, this would not be News’s worry. But if the company were to put the future of press freedom, the future of Fiji’s democracy, and the wellbeing of the Fiji people before all else, it could embrace a more dramatic response: stop the presses, close the business and establish an off-shore internet-based reporting operation dedicated to exposing the dictatorship’s activities.

The internet has already been shown as one of democracy’s greatest assets, a point made by Murdoch with his “unambiguous threat” speech of 1993. Anyone connected anywhere can search for information at myriad levels. It is the ultimate tool of transparency, and transparency is the greatest fear of dictators.

Usaia Waqatairewa is a Fijian expat living in Sydney. He knows Bainimarama well, coming from a neighbouring village. He says the Fijian people have been feeling the increasing pain of the dictatorship for the past three years; the middle class is fleeing and the ruling clique is open to do business with international crime and terror organisations.

He wishes the Australian government would apply more pressure on Bainimarama by discouraging tourists from holidaying on the island, pressuring airlines to cut services and encouraging Australian shippers and banks to resist the government. “With political will, the Australian government could help us.”

Waqatairewa says the censorship of news in print, TV and radio is like revisiting the 1970s world of the eastern bloc, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or North Korea. “It’s gloves off between me and Frank Bainimarama,” he declares.

Waqatairewa has had talks with News Limited since the sell-or-else decree. “I would be very happy if such a giant global corporation could support us in our opposition to this tin-pot dictatorship,” he says. “The last thing they want is a free press commenting on everything they do.

“Our movement has branches in Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, New Zealand, the US west coast and among the Fiji underground. We have journalists under cover and moles in the public service. We know how to access vital documents that are hidden from the public.

“We could, with a little help, establish a web news service aimed at keeping the people of Fiji informed about their illegal government.”

Waqatairewa agrees there may be some limits to this approach, as the internet is not yet ubiquitous in Fiji. “I told News that even better than a website would be to put a boat into international waters near Fiji and broadcast our message against the government on AM and FM because in every home, in every village, there is a radio.

“Sure, the dictatorship might try to jam us, but we would simply move frequencies. The ship need only be a floating transmitter, because we could send the signal from Australia on a live stream over the net. It would not be difficult to do.”

Waqatairewa says he raised the idea with News but has not had a response. That’s not surprising given the fluid situation, the ticklish diplomatic issues and concerns for the Times staff.

But if democracy and the freedom of the press are to mean anything, Bainimarama’s actions cannot be ignored or appeased. In the old days, we might have sent a gunboat. The idea of a pirate radio ship roaming the South Seas is far more appealing.

Unfortunately, these days the pirates are in government house, instead of at sea, or in a radio station.

God bless Fiji

Sophie’s Choice – Courage, Success and A Clear, Powerful Voice

I am grateful to Michael Field for this post on his blog.  Her sophisticated words, and intelligence, makes all of us Fiji Girls proud of our Sophie.  Thank you, Lord, for Fiji Women’s Rights Movement nurturing leadership in our young women.  Hope burns bright.  



May 28, 2009, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement Emerging Leaders Forum (ELF) graduation

Speech by Chief Guest: Sophie Foster, Associate Editor , Fiji TimesLtd 

GOOD evening and thank you very much for inviting me to join you on this special occasion; to celebrate 18 young women, who tonight graduate from the intensive year-long Emerging Leaders; Forum.

Being the journalist that I am, I thought tonight I’d start by first giving you the bad news; In fact, I’ll start with a question. And the question is this: What’s the greatest danger facing our generation and, indeed, the emerging leaders of our country?

The greatest danger is silence. A dangerous, pregnant silence into which many things fall ; a silence that comes in two forms. The silence of leaders who fail to speak out for whatever reason. And the silence of the people.

Tomorrow will mark the end of the seventh week in which that silence has been so obviously seen, read, and heard across the pages, screens and airwaves of the mainstream media in Fiji.

For tomorrow it will be seven weeks since Good Friday, the day the Public Emergency Regulation 2009 was put in place.

Section 16 of that regulation is specifically aimed at the media, giving the Permanent Secretary for Information wide-ranging and arbitrary powers to decide what the people of Fiji should not be told.

That there is no requirement for the Permanent Secretary to declare why a particular news item should not be made public is particularly frustrating. Indeed, it’s sometimes a deafening silence.

There is no doubt that the media industry is facing a tremendous challenge trying to defend the right of people to freedom of expression. Even as I speak, that challenge continues, as a group of civil servants systematically attempts to erase any trace of disaffection; in the media. They arrive after 6pm and leave somewhere around 10. In between that time, they
shred to pieces our intrinsic right to freedom of expression. 

But does the fact that a person, a censor, is able to keep something out of the media make it any less true? No, it doesn’t.

The censors may stop the media from saying there’s a teacher shortage or a blackout at Nabouwalu, but that does not mean that these things are not happening. 

The people at Nabouwalu know that they’ve had no electricity for a week now. Students and their parents know that they’ve had no teacher since Term 2 began. 

In their own circles, their own communities, these people talk. They complain. And they pass their frustrations on to others. The danger is when these frustrations build up with no vent, or they reach people for whom there seems to be nothing left to gain ; or lose.

It’s of vital importance that the truth be known, that the truth be reported widely and that there be free discussion around matters of community or national interest.

In the words of one of our Fiji Times readers who emailed us immediately after the imposition of censorship:;A free press is even more essential when power becomes concentrated in the hands of a few. Dialogue, criticism and dissent are essential for political and social well-being.

But it takes courage to be able to look real issues in the eye. It takes courage to be able to sustain threats, bullying, intimidation, and even firebombing. 

So why do we do the job we do? Why do journalists continue to turn up to work every day? Why continue to report on stories as they always did ; even if it means the stories could be crossed off with a cheap black pen every night?

It’s because we cannot and must not stand silently or idly by. Our duty is to continue to uphold the right to freedom of expression, to gather a variety of views, to provide our people with information with which they can make informed choices…

And that’s where the good news comes in; Across the world, women have over the decades developed very personal knowledge of the challenges that face us today the culture of silence, the lack of a voice. And yet despite these challenges women continue to celebrate small victories every day.

You may not know it, but the core of our news team  the reporters who go out every day and seek out the truth are mostly women, and young women at that. We have seen these young women tackle issues that directly affect our readers with tenacity, courage and compassion. 

In this century, being a woman should be considered a great advantage. We instinctively know things that men would probably need to train for. Compassion. The need for dialogue. Sharing of stories. And tackling discrimination as we see it. We can see several points of view at once, and every day have to balance out competing calls on our time.

In the words of one prominent female academic

Are women better leaders than men? Not necessarily.

Nor are men necessarily better leaders than women.

But in many ways women bring experiences and capabilities that are unlike men when solving tough problems. And considering our current state, we could stand an infusion of this type of leader.

It was Albert Einstein who said “Insanity consists of doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”

Unless a wider set of views, opinions and approaches are taken into account, unless more young women are mentored into leadership, we may find that our future cannot be any different to what has always been.

That’s why tonight, it’s my pleasure to join this celebration, to see these young women complete their year-long leadership training program, and to congratulate them all and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement for their willingness to rise to the challenges that face us.

It’s through programs such as these that the silence will be broken. That a greater variety of voices, and dare I say it, a richer quality of voices, will be heard on community and national issues ; and on issues that go to the heart of what it means to be a woman in our world. 

Ladies, young women, emerging leaders, the task ahead is no small one. But it’s one that we can all tackle simply by breaking the silence and doing the job as it should be done.

I wish you courage. I wish you success. I wish for you a clear and powerful voice. Congratulations!

Vinaka vakalevu…

God bless Fiji

What the censors don’t want you to know

Fiji censors reject Rudd’s editorial

By Pacific Correspondent, Campbell Cooney

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has sent an editorial to Fiji’s media outlets explaining why the country’s military-backed regime has been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum.

But media censorship in Fiji means Mr Rudd’s piece is not being made public.

Mr Rudd says interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s actions, including the recent scrapping of the constitution, have damaged Fiji’s international standing and the reputation of its military.

But he says that damage is made worse by the effect on Fiji’s economy, which is already highly vulnerable due to the global financial crisis.

Mr Rudd’s piece was provided to local media outlets yesterday.

Currently, all Fiji’s newsrooms are being monitored by censors who have been instructed to only allow positive coverage of the interim government, and local sources there say Mr Rudd’s editorial has not appeared in any of them.

So – who wants to read what the censors left out?  

Check it out here on CoupFourPointFive.  Hehehe, LOVE thwarting the censors, hehehe. 

God bless Fiji