Home » Uncategorized » The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

Fresh Hopes That Bainimarama Will Ease Restrictions on Media

FIJI: Fresh Hopes That Bainimarama Will Ease up Restrictions on Media

Voreqe Bainimarama took power in Fiji through a coup d’etat in 2006
but is now the elected prime minister. Image: Republika

Monday, September 22, 2014

AUCKLAND (RNZI / Pacific Media Watch / Café Pacific / Fiji Times): Many eyes are on Fiji’s former military dictator and now elected prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, with hopes that his election victory would often his stance towards the media and civil society.

The final election results for Fiji were declared at the weekend with Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, winning just over 59 percent of the vote.

The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

Just eight days before the election, two women journalists – Vosita Kotowasawasa of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) and Jyoti Pratibha of the Fiji Sun newspaper – received death threats over their previous day’s coverage of the cancellation of a live TV debate between the leading contenders for the post of prime minister. The origin of the threatening calls is still being traced.

Politician and economist Professor Biman Prasad, whose National Federation Party got three seats in the election said in a campaign speech that “the media decree with its heavy fines and penalties make it impossible for the country’s journalists to cover issues openly and without fear. It makes it impossible for us to project our messages to our people”.

New Zealand-based Fijian Pacific studies academic Dr Steven Ratuva has told RNZI that Voreqe Bainimarama’s landslide victory in the election is mainly due to the prime minister’s appeal to all ethnicities.

Bainimarama won about 58 percent of the indigenous Fijian vote and about 70 percent of the Indo-Fijian vote.

Dr Ratuva says that by promising political security after a spate of coups, Bainimarama also appealed to urban Indo-Fijian voters.

However, with a small opposition made up of SODELPA with 15 seats, and the National Federation Party, with three seats; it may be difficult to hold Bainimarama accountable, Ratuva told RNZI:

“It’s going to be a very unbalanced Parliament in terms of accountability and secondly in terms of complacency for the government itself. You’re bound to have parliamentary dynamics which will be almost totalitarian in nature, although of course it’s legitimate, it’s through election.”

Professor Jon Fraenkel of Wellington’s Victoria University said that Bainimarama had “gone to great lengths to allay indigenous voters’ concerns” by setting up road building projects, free bus fares for school children and subsidised primary education.

“Many ethnic Fijians see Rear Admiral (Ret) Bainimarama as an indigenous leader, who has succeeded in dominating the national stage where others failed,” Fraenkel wrote in the Fiji Times newspaper.




9 thoughts on “The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

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  2. Folks lets not kid ourselves and believe that things will change quickly. The democracy that Fiji was experiencing and journeying towards via the 1997 constitution has drastically been rolled back and returning to that level is even more difficult with the return of the Baikhai regime to power! Lets take a good hard look at the landscape that Fiji is now in and be realistic about the mammoth task at hand. A self-imposed constitution giving far-reaching immunity for criminals and a self-styled parliament that will certainly rubber stamp the Baikhai order is what Fiji faces. Now that the election is over, one could almost predict what the numbers game in parliament will boil down to! A 15 member opposition in a 50 membership house is not an ideal point to start from. There will certainly be a greater need for partnership with civil society. But also the task of attracting civil society to opposition side will be mammoth given the ‘Stockholme syndrome’ permeating throughout!

    Leaving aside this, the Baikhai regime has done its work in preparing for its return to power. Everyone would have and should have been aware of it form the start! The Baikhai constitution, the stage-managed election, the control and acquiesence of the media (not mentioning the effort of Qorvis), the acquiesence of the judiciary and police etc, and all the hostile decrees backed with scare-mongering, intimidation and bribes have all played a part. So given this, what is Fiji legitimising through the recent contentious election? First is the Baikhai consitution that the country once opposed! Second is the dictatorial rule that Fiji once abhored and third is the robbery of state wealth taking place since the 2006 coup! We can already see the third legitimisation scheme about to take place from the reshuffling of ministerial positions in the Baikhai government. As a preview, the manufacturer of decrees is now stratigically moving over to manage the state’s finance and trade portfolio where he will make sure that all unlawful spendings, corrupt financial deals and unaudited and unreported transactions will be covered up properly. A picture will be presented to the peasants who have been relying on their handouts that everything is fine and Fiji is better off with them! The opposition should be ready and equally step up to the plate to ensure that no stone is left unturned. It certainly maybe the case that aunty’s accounting firm will have exclusive government contract to remain behind the scene and tidy up things should they be messy. And Qorvis can still be handy to sing a few tunes for the peasants to dance to!

    As has been said by many contributors, Fiji is definitely not out of the woods yet. A better description would be – Fiji prefers remaining in the woods! The Stockholm syndrome is certainly apparent and Baikhai will have to ensure the honeymoon period lasts. On the moral side, building a castle on sand is not the best thing to do. Sand foundation is weak and unstable. We all can see that Fiji’s foundation is weak and unstable what Fiji is trying to build on now started off with an unlawful takeover of government and carried with it many elements of inhumane and undesirable suffering of people. It is not the ideal foundation for rallying people together and certainly not the best foundation to put one’s life especially when it allows criminals to give themselves immunity! So it certainly is a foundation that misses justice and righteousness at its heart. The cries of the suffering still persist today and the 15 member opposition would embody that cry! At least it is a seed that has been planted that will grow to become the bigger three that peasants might flock to later. For now, the people have chosen to remain in the woods and observers will be watching what their experience will be. Interesting days ahead!

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