Fiji media authority complains about ABC reporter
The chairman of the Media Industry Development Authority, Ashwin Raj, made the announcement at a press conference in Suva today. He says the unit will make sure that newspaper, radio stations and TV stations do not show bias in the way they report on politics.
Our reporter in Suva, Samisoni Pareti, says the press conference was called to explain MIDA’s complaint about reporting on Fiji by Australia’s ABC, but was also used to confirm journalists like Sean Dorney, Barbara Dreaver and Michael Field are still banned, and that MIDA is taking recommendation to the military backed regime that it consider enforcing one against ABC Correspondent Campbell Cooney.
Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat is also duty bound to declare that the ABC is its parent corporation.
Repeated efforts were made to contact Ashwin Raj for a response, but we did not receive any reply.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Samisoni Pareti, Fiji based reporter
PARETI: The invitation to the local news media Bruce was to a press conference to clarify the MIDA – which is Media Industry Development Authority’s position with regard to they’re complaint against the ABC, and in particular, against ABC Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney.
HILL: What was the subsistence of they’re complaint?
PARETI: They took offence to an interview that Sean Dorney did with you some weeks back in regards to the Pacific Island News Association’s Media Summit in Noumea, New Caledonia, and apparently Mr. Dorney made some remarks concerning the freeness of the media or otherwise in Fiji. So they took that up and they wrote I think a seven page long letter to the ABC complaining about Sean Dorney’s statements and a copy of that letter was released to the media today by Mr Ashwin Raj, who’s the Chairman of MIDA, as well as they also released a copy of ABC’s response to the complaint, whereby the ABC basically stated that they’re standing by Sean Dorney’s position and claims, and that if MIDA is still not happy with that position, then they are most welcome to submit their complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
HILL: Now the substance of what Sean Dorney said in the interview of Pacific Beat, I understand was a statement that he made that the media in Fiji were not completely free. This appears to be what the substance of their complaint, they didn’t like that and they said that simply wasn’t correct?
PARETI: That’s right and he went on to lecture the media at the start of the press conference, the MIDA Chair that is, about not only talking about free media, but there’s also an important component of that is that there also needs to be a fair media in Fiji and that he said is vitally important at least in Fiji because we’re getting into general elections that needs to take place before September and he went on to make announcement as to the formation of units like the Media Monitoring Unit and he said that this is going to be very useful on the weeks approaching the elections, because they’re going to monitor and measure how fair and how free the media in Fiji is, and particularly ensuring that there’s no bias being shown to one particular political party.
HILL: This Media Monitoring Unit, would that be a Quasi government organisations, would it be in the hands of the regime essentially?
PARETI: Chairman Raj stressed the independence of the Media Monitoring Unit. There will be about five people altogether in it. They need to have some experience in the media industry as that they don’t need to be attached currently to a media organisation or to any government agency.
He’s saying that they are going to be independent, but at the same time, he also agreed that the Media Monitoring Unit is going to act as the information collection house for MIDA, because MIDA will need to show some evidence and needs to measure any particular media organisations so-called bias for or against a particular political organisation as such.
HILL: And would there be some penalties for media organisations if according to this Media Monitoring Unit, they do show bias?
PARETI: He was specifically asked about that, but one I think will assume that the Media Monitoring Unit will work with MIDA and both organisations or units will work under the provisions of the Media Decree of 2010, which, of course, contains penalties like fines.
HILL: Now, I understand that Mr Raj also had concerns about the operations of foreign journalists in Fiji, foreign media training organisations and even local reporters in Fiji, such as yourself, who work for overseas media organisations?
PARETI: Yes, he took offence again to freelance journalists, he didn’t name any, but I’m one of them. He said, one, because they seem to think that they’re a law unto themselves, that they don’t need to register when they’re supposed to with MIDA and also that they can just come with false reporting and he cited a case with a recent dengue outbreak in Fiji and he also took offence to the fact that some freelance journalists seems to be working for several media agencies. I really don’t know who he meant, but I think we know who he’s referring to and there was no clarification on which provisions of the Media Decree that these so-called offences come under.
And he was also saying that foreign organisations like PACMAS that needs to do training for media organisations in of Fiji needs to register with them first, because only MIDA will know where the needs are and they need to come through the MIDA process or system. So that were some of the things that Chairman Raj was trying to stress in the media conference that he called in Suva today.
HILL: What was the response from media who were there, were there questions afterwards and what was the tone of the questioning of Mr Raj?
PARETI: Yes, there were a few questions, there were questions relating to the Media Monitoring Unit, the proposed Media Monitoring Unit, that they’re wanting to establish. There were a lot of questions from myself, particularly on the MIDA’s position with regard to ABC journalists, like Sean Dorney.
I think the PINA journalist asked him whether Sean Dorney is still being allowed into Fiji, and according to Chairman Raj, he said no. Also he didn’t ban Sean, but he supports the ban, likewise for Barbara Dreaver the TV New Zealand Pacific correspondent, the ban remains against her and I asked about Mike Fields, and he said the ban remains against him as well and he also confirmed that he’s making recommendations to the government about another ABC correspondent, Campbell Cooney, and I did question whether it’s kind of counter-productive in a way if you are trying to ban them and we’re trying to say that the media is free in Fiji. Why don’t let them all in, so they can see for themselves the true picture of the industry here. But he said no, he supports a ban that has been imposed against journalists like Sean Dorney.