Home » Uncategorized » Fiji media playing more ‘responsible’ role but still self-censoring, says columnist

Fiji media playing more ‘responsible’ role but still self-censoring, says columnist

Fiji media playing more ‘responsible’ role but still self-censoring, says columnist

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–>Fiji economist and media critic Professor Wadan Narsey at his former institution, University of the South Pacific. Image: USP

Fiji economist and media critic Professor Wadan Narsey at his former institution, University of the South Pacific. Image: USP

Pacific Scoop: Comment – Professor Wadan Narsey

In recent weeks, the Fiji print media have begun to play a more “responsible” role in holding those in authority to account as the country prepares for the promised elections in September.

They are printing critical letters to the editor, some of them several months after they were originally sent (and resent recently).

Some idea of the extent of self-censorship in the past, and recent easing may be gauged by examining just this page on my personal blog site which published the letters as they were sent over the last year.

Some recently published letters question Ministry of Education policies, while some question the extent to which the Permanent Secretary of Finance is exercising proper responsibility over ministerial salaries.

However, some important letters are still not being published, for instance the following calling on the Electoral Commission to act immediately in the interests of free and fair elections.

Given that the promised September elections are going to be crucial to the restoration of accountable parliamentary democracy in Fiji, the media clearly have some way to go in returning to its pre-2006 robust role holding those in authority to account.

Rules of the game

Letter to the Editor (Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business, Republika) 22 January 2014

Ensuring a fair elections game

Dear Sir

It might reassure some that the Electoral Commission has announced that it will not be a “rubber stamp” for the Bainimarama government but will do its utmost to ensure “free and fair” elections. The current reality indicates otherwise.

In any free and fair “game”, the opposing teams play on a “level playing field” with no side having any unfair advantage, and both sides know exactly what the rules of the game are going to be decided independently, before they start the game.

By these criteria, the Electoral Commission is surely aware that the elections games are currently not fair at all: one side is appointing their own referee, while giving itself all the penalties and free kicks it wants.

First, the unelected Bainimarama ministers can clearly be accused of using tax-payers’ money and donor resources, on a weekly basis to buy voter support, just as previous governments were accused of doing, such as through the Agricultural Scam.

Second, the media is clearly giving far more coverage to pro-Bainimarama statements (by ministers, supporters and editorials) than to Opposition voices.

Third, the Bainimarama government still has not announced what exactly will be the rules of the elections game-i.e. the electoral system and regulations which they themselves are going to impose on the country (having dumped the independent Ghai Commission rules), leaving the political parties totally ignorant of the rules they will be playing under.

Fourth, by not announcing the exact elections date, the Bainimarama regime is denying other political parties and civil society organisations the opportunity to properly plan their voter education campaigns and prepare their teams for the election games.

Fifth, they have unilaterally appointed their own electoral referees.

In contrast, Commodore Bainimarama and his advisory cabal, are no doubt well aware of the rules of the game they will be imposing on Fiji, and when.

There is clearly no level playing field for all parties facing the upcoming elections games.

To show the public that they are genuine about ensuring free and fair elections and not merely being “rubber stamps”, the Electoral Commission must publicly require the Bainimarama Government

(a) to immediately release details of the electoral system and regulations under which elections will be held.

(b) to announce when exactly they intend to hold the elections.

(c) to require ministers who are going to be candidates in the elections, to resign from government six months before the elections, to ensure that they do not use tax payers’ and donors funds for their campaigning.

(d) to require that the MIDA act immediately to ensure that there is political balance in the media reporting.

Professor Wadan Narsey

Professor Wadan Narsey is a Fiji economist and analyst and adjunct professor at James Cook University. He publishes his own columns and blogs.

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6 thoughts on “Fiji media playing more ‘responsible’ role but still self-censoring, says columnist

  1. What is this idiot talking about. He still seems to believe that we will give the opposition a fair shot at the elections? His demands that the rules of the election game to be made clear for the dirty old politicians to take advantage are ridiculous. Why would we give anything away that undermines our victory? We have stated again and again that Khaiyum and his protectors of the RFMF will not allow corrupt and dirty old politicians to come back to gorge themselves on government resources that we have already allocated to ourselves.

  2. Yes the words ‘craven and gutless’ comes to mind in the current crop of Fijian media. Never underestimate how easily co-opted and cowardly people can be.

  3. No you are right Aunty, Khaiyum and his fellow pigs want to keen it all to themselves and then claim some sort of purity – ‘I did it all for the nation’. My arse they did , they saw in themselves talentless, unremarkable people who would hitch their wagon to the military regime to get themselves ahead. It is as simple as that. None of the people in the current regime are what anyone would describe as respected or merit worthy. They are tarnished and forever linked with a disgusting period in Fiji’s history.

  4. when fiji returns to democracy whenever that happens –
    don’t bank too heavily on that happening via the coming elections –
    the complicity of the Fiji media in propping up the Fijian military dictatorship must be investigated.
    a royal commission of inquiry should be set up with Graham Davis as the “independent “chair!

  5. how can the MIDA act immediately to ensure that there is political balance in the media reporting when it CANNOT act at all !
    remember it is the creation of the dictatorship.
    the MIDA is just a show thing .

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