Pacific Media at its worst………Edge website removes critical article…….. Davis like a rabid Qovis attack dog with the last five articles all attacking Edge…..

We Say: The Fourth Estate stoush

“The media’s role is said to be to hold a mirror to the government and to society without fear or favour. But Pacific media practitioners and academics are doing a disservice to their professions and to media consumers at large as they continue blackening one other’s faces putting their narrow egotistic interests above the greater good…And in the process, only fuelling politicians’ proclivity to ride roughshod over themselves and the powerless public”

What is it that incites Pacific media owners, journalists, media academics and students to go ferociously for one another’s jugular every so often? The short history of journalism in the Pacific Islands is littered with numerous episodes of media proprietors, scribes and tertiary teachers lunging at one another’s throats, polarising the student community at an enormous cost to their study.
These confrontations always tend to begin with ideological differences, which is not a bad thing at all, given that the raison d’etre of journalism is to question the status quo in an informed and collegial manner, but the debate quickly degenerates into unabashed personality clashes.
Before long, the quality of the discourse spirals out of control into petty name calling, questioning of credentials and antecedents, abusive comments—right down to racist remarks directed at all concerned.
In years past, such quarrels were restricted largely to the print medium and points and counterpoints were to a large extent reasoned and measured. But the popularity and accessibility of the online medium and the lack of editorial control, particularly on blog sites, reduces the level of debate to little more than the raucous, expletive filled exchanges in a bar brawl.
The latest episode in this continuing sordid saga involves Marc Edge, the current head of the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme; David Robie, one of his predecessor;, Graham Davis, the twin hat wearing journalist cum consultant to the PR company rendering services to the Fiji government; and a bunch of journalism students hopelessly divided across the continuing unseemly stoush that is spreading to all sorts of Pacific centric websites—all at the cost of their study.
At the Pacific Islands News Association’s biennial meet earlier this year, questions about journalistic ethics were raised and inconclusively argued between Edge and Davis resulting in frothy debates on websites for several months following.
Then again at last month’s USP hosted media freedom symposium, what started out as a an extremely interesting debate about what style of journalism is best suited for the region’s realities, quickly deteriorated into another unseemly spat with the washing of copious amounts of dirty linen in the public domain.
Last month’s debate began around something that has been a subject of discussion among media academics in the region for some time now: whether journalism in the Pacific should be based on the ‘social responsibility’ or ‘deliberative’ model—which Robie favours—or whether the more libertarian ‘western style’—which Edge seems to prefer—suits it better. Associated with the former are what go by the labels ‘peace journalism’, ‘development journalism’, ‘guided’ and ‘collaborative’ journalism.
The discussions around this interesting debate would have been collegial and conducted in an atmosphere that would churn some great ideas one would think, but if one goes by the posts on a range of websites and blogs one can see that the discourse has moved away from this topic and degenerated into name calling, accusations and even unbecomingly petty racist remarks.
Parties slugging it out on these websites and blogs have cast aspersions on one another’s credibility, exhumed past skeletons going back decades, accused one another of impropriety, reproduced leaked work emails and correspondence, and have even called for people to pack up and leave, to say nothing of all sorts of veiled threats and counter threats.
Students have waded in to the controversy and added their own bit of venom to the arguments. In the process, the debate has veered light years away from where it began, resembling a street fight rather than an informed collegial discussion.
The no holds barred highly personal exchanges have exposed the poor regard these journalists and academics have for one another—which, reading through some of their vitriolic responses, is probably justified.
For instance, prolific Fijian affairs commentator Davis is hard put to defend his work as a consultant to an overseas public relations outfit engaged by the Fiji government while being a journalist at the same time. Small wonder then that his arguments in defence of juggling two hats and justifying the charade look like the proverbial fig leaf.
Such obvious as daylight conflict of interest would scarcely, if ever, have gone unchallenged in the country where this commentator lives and works from. But apparently, as we have known all along, everything is fair game in the Pacific. This only goes to show the poor regard that these sparring individuals have for the people of the region.
Edge, on the other hand, has been accused of using western, developed world yardsticks to instruct and evaluate his students.
He has been criticised for insisting on punctuality and discipline, which according to his opponents are rather harsh given the “realities” in the Pacific islands region.
On an unrelated matter, his integrity has been questioned for not adequately explaining the arrangement about his involvement in an endorsement for a commercial entity in Suva.
In another raging controversy with Fiji journalists, which also gained currency during last month’s symposium, Edge insists that self-censorship is rampant in Fiji, which Fiji’s journalists rather unconvincingly refute.
Again, this is an important topic for wider discussion—but the fact that it quickly descends to the level of personal attacks and even abuse in the form of comments written anonymously, many times quite obviously the same person assuming multiple online identities, robs the region of healthy, informed debate.
In Samoa last month, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi gratuitously offered the services of his head spin doctor and former scribe Terry Tavita to his former employer, Samoa Observer publisher Savea Sano Malifa. Malifa publicly refused spewing out a range of reasons why he thought it was a bad idea, while going over Tavita’s employment foibles in great detail.
That a prime minister can even think of suggesting that his PR man should work for what is truly the nation’s truly independent newspaper speaks volumes for how poorly regional politicians think of the national and regional media.
And why wouldn’t they when regional media stalwarts, academics, journalists and media organisations continually indulge in ugly and very public stoushes as is now being played out in Fiji?
The media’s role is said to be to hold a mirror to the government and to society without fear or favour. But Pacific media practitioners and academics are doing a disservice to their professions and to media consumers at large as they continue blackening one other’s faces putting their narrow egotistic interests above the greater good, reflecting the rot in their lot. And in the process, only fuelling politicians’ proclivity to ride roughshod over themselves and the powerless public.

The fallout continues ………Nicholas told the Fairfax Media owned Star-Times there was no judiciary in Fiji and that the place was run by a military regime.

 Fiji regime wants editor jailed


Fiji’s military regime has asked a court to fine the country’s major daily newspaper F$500,000 (NZ$342,000) and send its editor to jail for six months for printing a story first published in New Zealand’s Sunday Star-Times.

The story last November quoted a comment made by Auckland based Oceania Football Confederation secretary-general Tai Nicholas who was critical of Fiji’s military appointed judiciary.

Nicholas told the Fairfax Media owned Star-Times there was no judiciary in Fiji and that the place was run by a military regime.

The story was printed unchanged next day in the Fiji Times.

The military-appointed Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum filed contempt of court proceedings against Nicholas, who cannot now visit Fiji, and the Fiji Times.

The Fiji Times was found guilty of the contempt charge and was today before High Court Justice William Callanchini to discuss sentence.

Fiji media report that the acting Solicitor General, Sharvada Sharma, asked for the fine and the jailing.

Sharma said the Fiji Times is a repeat offender and an appropriate penalty needs to be imposed on the company to ensure that it serves as a deterrent for would be offenders.

Sharma asked that publisher Hank Arts be given a three months suspended sentence due to his medical condition and six months prison sentence for editor Fred Wesley.

Fiji Times lawyer Jon Apted said the penalties should not be excessive and there should not be any imprisonment as this was a mistake by a third party.

He also said the mistake was not intentional.

Apted said Wesley, who was not present when the story was processed, was remorseful.

He said the sports editor did not read the full article.

He said the deputy sports editor reviewed the story and made a wrong decision as he was not aware of the legal implications.

Apted said that The Fiji Times like any other media outlet is facing great difficulties in attracting staff at the editorial level and they have lost senior people in the last few months.

The military, who seized power in 2006, have tightly controlled newsrooms with censors in place. Although censorship was lifted earlier this year, many journalists have left the industry.

Justice Callanchini reserved sentence.

A not unexpected event…….

New head of USP journalism school

17:10 Today



Taken from/By: FBC News
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

Doctor Marc Edge is no longer the Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific.

He has been replaced by Professor Sudesh Mishra as Head of Journalism effective from today.

FBC News understands there’re several complaints against Dr Edge from some second and third year journalism students.

Questions sent to USP regarding the change weren’t answered today.

However, we were told that USP will issue an official press release on Wednesday.

The USP web site says Dr Edge is a senior lecturer in the journalism programme.

Several recipients of awards reportedly unhappy with Dr Edge didn’t attend the annual Journalism Awards at USP last Friday.

Wait and see Croz may surprise us.

The attacks on Croz for rightly declaring he was sponsored by the Fiji Government on his recent junket are absurd. It is premature to say his report will be a whitewash for the government.

We must wait and see but he has been upfront about the circumstance of the visit and for this we must give him some Kudos. I do however know the drivers were telephoned each night to confirm his visits and plans. As any PSC driver will tell you this is not unusual when driving people, like potential investors, of interest to the government

While I disagree with him not asking the opinions of those opposed to what is happening in Fiji. I do however know he spoke to Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi and this interview alone is worth the wait.

Tu Jone has a major role to play in Fiji’s future and I will be disappointing if he is sidelined by the administration.

Wait and read  the message before you decide to shoot the messenger


It’s like the First Rule of Fight Club. YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Croz admits he’s also on the gravy train

The spinmeisters at Qorvis Communications are likely holding their heads in their hands and moaning today. It must be so frustrating when your would-be foot soldiers break the first rule of propaganda. Maybe they think that transparency will purify them and make their blog postings more believable. Instead it will probably have the opposite effect and make them much more easy to dismiss. C’mon guys! It’s like the First Rule of Fight Club. YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!!!
First it was blowhard blogger Grubby Davis who outed himself in September as a consultant to Qorvis, the U.S. public relations firm with the dodgy record that specialises in whitewashing authoritarian regimes worldwide. Grubby now enjoys weekly excursions to Suva from his home in Australia, no doubt flying first class and staying at the Holiday Inn, for consultations with Qorvis and MINFO. All of which is paid for by Fiji taxpayers, of course.
Now it’s retired USP professor Crosbie Walsh, who blogs from New Zealand at Fiji: The Way it Is, Was and Can Be. Croz admitted yesterday that he took a free trip to Suva recently at Fiji government expense so he could take the pulse of the nation in the midst of consultations on a new (maybe) constitution.
The Ministry of Information paid my travel costs, five days accommodation at Holiday Inn, they provided a vehicle to take me around, and gave me the temporary use of a tape recorder and a “dongle” to avoid the hotel’s high charge for internet access. Vinaka, Sharon, Sharleen, Don and the three drivers, especially Freddie.
The founding head of Development Studies at USP promises a series of blog posts resulting from this visit, during which he interviewed all and sundry about the progress being made on the road to democracy in Fiji.
I talked with the PM for a long 40 minutes, the Attorney-General and two Cabinet ministers, four permanent secretaries, Prof Yash Ghai and two other members of the Constitution Commission, and people from business, Qorvis, the NZ High Commission, the universities, the trade unions, the military, two NGOs involved in constitution education, the media (Fiji Times and Fiji Sun), the judiciary, the religious community, and one chief, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.
Well, almost all and sundry. “I did not attempt to meet any of the leaders of the old political parties,” he admitted, “because their views are already well known and I thought I’d gain nothing from interviewing them.” This is where the problems begin with him accepting what’s called a “junket” in the journalism world. For whatever reason, Croz apparently did not even attempt to get the opposing view to those of his benefactors in government, which are also doubtless well known to him. And to believe that his reports would be untainted by his hosts’ largesse really stretches credulity.
Now, there are different opinions out there about Old Croz. Pacific Scoop has a page devoted to him that is practically a shrine. Fiji Democracy Now, not so much. It has hung him with an unflattering nickname and archives his greatest hits under More biased opinions from Crosbie Walsh. To be fair, Croz does not always come down on the side of Fiji’s interim government. He criticized the Essential Industries Decree, which has endangered Fiji’s duty free status in the U.S., from its introduction a year ago. He repeated just last month his opinion that the decree “undermined national trade unions [and] exposed workers to the whims of employers.”
He also, to his credit, urged the lifting of censorship more than a year ago while martial law was still being imposed under the Public Emergency Regulation. “If genuine dialogue is to take place on the constitutional and electoral reforms,” wrote Croz last June, “media censorship will have to be lifted.” In fact, he urged the government to lift the PER completely, which it finally did six months later. That wasn’t based on it being the right thing to do, however, but instead on the political capital the government would gain as a result. “These measures – and particularly the lifting of media restrictions – would win them immeasurable support and confound their opponents.”
There is no doubt that Croz wields considerable influence on foreign opinion concerning Fiji, and perhaps on domestic opinion as well. No wonder MINFO was eager to bring him up here and show him around. As long as he didn’t talk to the opposition, of course. Those who consider his opinions should now take into account whether he is independent or biased. Croz claims in his blog aims that his blog is balanced.
This blog is unusual in aiming to present a balanced and helpful presentation of events in Fiji as they relate to the post-2006 military coup or takeover, and ideas on how Fiji may move forward to the election of a truly representative government serving all the people of Fiji.
Sorry, Croz. That just doesn’t fit with what you’ve done. As any first-year journalism student knows (mine certainly do), you will not have any credibility if you do not maintain an independence from those you write about. From now on it will be hard not to believe that you, like Graham Davis, are  beholden to the Fiji government.

The more I learn about these rascals, the more I suspect that I’ve been a victim of their black ops.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who/what is Qorvis Communications?

Fiji’s endangered duty free status in the U.S. has apparently upped the stakes in the interim government’s high-priced PR campaign, with Courfourpointfive reporting that the monthly stipend paid to Washington-based spin doctors Qorvis Communications for services rendered has soared from US$40,000 to US$150,000 per month. It might thus be appropriate to look at the kinds of services Qorvis renders. The more I learn about these rascals, the more I suspect that I’ve been a victim of their black ops.
Human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen chronicled for the Huffington Post last year the types of activitiesQorvis engages in on behalf of governments in the Middle East. Much of it involves social media such as Facebook, blogs, and Twitter. According to Halvorssen, Qorvis uses phony social media accounts to conduct smear campaigns against critics of repressive regimes. “Most of the U.S.-based fake tweeting, fake blogging (flogging), and online manipulation is carried out from inside Qorvis Communication’s ‘Geo-Political Solutions’ division,” noted Halvorssen. “The effort is mechanical and centrally organized.”

More so than intimidation, violence, and disappearances, the most important tool for dictatorships across the world is the discrediting of critics. . . . Oppressive governments are threatened by public exposure, and this means that it’s not just human rights defenders but also bloggers, opinion journalists, and civil society activists who are regularly and viciously maligned

The American Independent detailed some of Qorvis’ efforts in promoting Fiji, noting that it is “deeply involved in managing the online and social media activities” of the government. Its cyberpromotion includes websites, blogs, and Twitter feeds, according to disclosures required to be made by Qorvis under the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

“WHOIS” lookups of domain name registration information reveal that “,” “,” “,” “,” and “” were registered by Qorvis employees, although the sites offer no disclosure of Qorvis’ involvement. The FARA filing also listed three Twitter accounts — @FijiPM, @FijiAG and @FijiRepublic — under “activities conducted by registrant.”

The latest targets of such social media messages have been in the U.S. as a result of recent hearings held to decide on revoking Fiji’s free trade status after protests by trade union groups. Fiji’s Qorvis-linked Twitter accounts, according to the American Independent, have “played an active role in promoting pro-government news articles, often published by the government owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.”

The tweets, like many of those issued by accounts linked to Qorvis, frequently target their messages to Twitter accounts affiliated with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, both institutions which have been critical of Fiji’s military coup government. . . . Qorvis’ management of such accounts, without disclosing their involvement on the Twitter accounts or websites, would fit with the consultancy’s history of being less than transparent in the work done on behalf of foreign clients.

The FARA disclosure shows that Qorvis has provided “fact sheets” to various parties, including Australian blogger Grubby Davis. It has also been successful in getting pro-Fiji news stories published by the overseas press. It arranged a visit to Fiji by reporter Ginanne Brownell of fDi Magazine,  which is owned by The Financial Times Ltd and edited in London. That resulted in such stories as “Promise of democracy opens up investment opportunities in Fiji,” and “Fiji PM looks to forge a central role within south Pacific.”
Project PM, which describes itself as “an autonomous online entity” that uses the internet to promote positive change, keeps close tabs on black ops spin doctors such as Qorvis. Its cyber sleuthing has found that Qorvis regularly edits Wikipedia pagesto make its clients look better. “QORVIS has its own long history of edits at the site,” notes Project PM. “There is a lengthy page of Wikipedia edits for an unnamed user with the IP”

The IP [address] belongs to User was not alone. Another 3 named accounts made their way around the same pages all of which appear to have a connection to QORVIS as clients or staff. As this appears to have a degree of co-ordination behind it, it backs up accounts of online manipulation or ‘black arts’ from the Geo-Political Solutions division of QORVIS.

One of the Wikipedia pagesthat Qorvis has doctored, according to Project PM, is that of Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, which its editing history shows to have been altered by a particularly busy person who goes by the handle of “Ratfinx.”

Kudos to the Fiji Times………”The Fiji Times stands behind the story and its reporter,” Mr Arts said.

Times’ stand

Tevita Vuibau Wednesday, October 10, 2012

“WE stand by our reporter.”

Those were the words of The Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley regarding The Fiji Times front page article “Girl Cargo” published on Friday, October 5.

The article attracted criticism from the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji which claimed the information published in the report was inaccurate and falsified.

But Wesley said the fact remained a meeting had taken place between the reporter and an MSAF official during which the comments in the report were obtained.

“We can confirm our reporter did speak to the MSAF official and he made statements that we ran on the front page,” Wesley said.

“In terms of the story, our reporter is steadfast and firmly stands by the story and by whatever she’s written, and as a newspaper we stand by our reporter.

“We didn’t try to clear the air earlier because we had to give the benefit of the doubt to our reporter first as a responsible organisation and review the story and scenarios offered by the police statement.”

He said the newspaper conducted an internal investigation into the matter. It also ran the police statement and a statement from the navy.

MSAF released a statement saying the reporter had apologised and promised a retraction of the story after a meeting.

“Any retraction will have to come from her superiors and this MSAF meeting didn’t include any of our reporter’s superiors,” he said.

Wesley said the reporter’s apology was for associating Malake Island with the case of the missing sisters of Naria and not for the story in its entirety.

“It is important to realise that an interview did take place and over the course of this interview an MSAF official made comments.

“And our reporter, like any other good reporter, noted down the comments, took them on record and reported what was told to her and that was what we published.”

Wesley said there was no sinister motive behind the report and there was no intention to bring Malake Island into disrepute.

The Fiji Times publisher Hank Arts said some media organisations were doing very little to develop such stories themselves.

“It is unfortunate that some media organisations have attacked The Fiji Times for the credibility that we stand for.

“The Fiji Times stands behind the story and its reporter,” Mr Arts said.

“Human trafficking is a worldwide concern as highlighted by many international organisations. The Fiji Times is responsible in raising that this may well be an issue in the Pacific.”

Reading between the lines….. The reporter was quoting a Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji officer who was not authorised to speak publicly……but what was the correct story? Where is the investigative reporting?

Inaccurate, unauthorized information published-Slack

The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji yesterday met with the reporter from one of the dailies in relation to the story of an 18 year old girl who was found on a yacht near Malake Island Rakiraki.

In a statement Chief Executive Officer Neale Slack said that the reporter has confirmed that inaccurate and unauthorized information was published.

The reporter also apologized for the unauthorized quoting of the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji officer.

Slack said no officer of the MSAF was authorised to release information to the media other than the CEO.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Police Force has refuted reports in relation to the story.

In a statement, police say that at no point in time did they receive a report of an 18 year old that was found on a yacht or was in their custody.

Police say the reports are nothing more than assumptions and speculation and it is worrying to note that this was not taken into account although this was highlighted to the reporter concerned.

Story by: Filipe Naikaso and Praneeta Prakash

Alleged assult? There were witnesses and he has spent a week in hospital………..but we will spin it as an alleged assault.

NZ national evacuated after alleged assault

A New Zealand national who was injured after he was allegedly assaulted by four people at his room in a hotel in Nadi was evacuated to New Zealand last week.

Four people have already been charged and produced in court for their alleged involvement in relation to the NZ national and their alleged involvement in a series of robberies and break-ins in Nadi over the past few weeks.

Story by: Praneeta Prakash

Apology by OFC president refused by court……….

Court finds Fiji Times guilty of contempt

Fiji Times Limited has been has been found guilty of contempt of court by High Court Judge Justice William Calanchini.

Justice Calanchini has today ruled that he has found Fiji Times Limited, the publisher at the time Brian O’Flaherty and Editor Fred Wesley guilty of contempt scandalizing the court.

The story related to comments printed in the sports pages about the judiciary by Oceania Football Confederation secretary Tai Nicholas.

Justice Calanchini said to the extent that the affidavit sworn by Wesley purported to explain the system they have, it is apparent from the affidavits of two reporters that whatever system was in place at the time was either ineffective, unsupervised or not sufficiently monitored.

In his judgement, Justice Calanchini said whatever the reason, the responsibility for the publication of the material must be borne by both the publisher and the editor.

Justice Calanchini also highlighted a further story in the Fiji Times on June 30th this year about the OFC president apologizing to the government and a photo right next to it showing the OFC making a $25,000 donation to the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund.

He said the apology as printed is coming from a person who was not a party to the proceedings and had no direct involvement in the proceedings.

He has now invited counsel as part of the mitigation hearing to address him on why he should not consider the material on June 30th as an aggravating factor of a grave nature.

The mitigating submission hearing date is yet to be set.

Fiji Times was represented by QC Julian Miles while Acting Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma represented the Attorney General.

Story by: Vijay Narayan

A complaint to the Media Authority by Marc Edge, PhD………”People need to be protected from the type of unethical and now illegal “gutter” journalism practiced by Communications Fiji Limited

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A complaint to the Media Authority

25 September 2012
Professor Subramani
Media Tribunal
Media Industry Development Authority
Suva, Fiji
Dear Professor Subramani,
I wish to make a complaint under the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 against Communications Fiji Limited, its reporter Dhanjay Deo, and its News Director Vijay Narayan. The Media Code of Ethics and Practice contained in Schedule 1 of the Decree sets out guidelines for interviewing and for what information journalists may and may not report.
Section 5, “Subterfuge” states:
Media must use straightforward means to obtain information. . . .  Use of subterfuge, false identity, or covert recording to do so can be justified only in rare circumstances where the material sought ought to be published in the public interest and could not be obtained in any other way.
Section 23, “Interviews” states:
Interviews for print, electronic media, radio and television must be arranged, conducted, and edited fairly and honestly. Potential interviewees are entitled to know in advance the format, subject, and purpose of their interview. . . .
I wish to complain that Communications Fiji Limited and its reporter Dhanjay Deo used subterfuge in that he did not use straightforward means to obtain information. He also did not arrange an interview with me fairly and honestly, as he did not reveal the true purpose of the interview. In fact, he deceived me as to the true purpose of the interview. I also wish to complain that Communications Fiji Limited and Vijay Narayan published, by broadcasting it on CFL’s radio stations including Legend FM and FM96, and by reporting it on its website, information that was obtained by means that were not straightforward, fair or honest. Specifically, they published comments that I made not in an interview but which I instead made in a complaint to Mr Narayan about my interview with Mr Deo. The facts are as follows.
I received a phone call on 11 September from Legend FM reporter Dhanjay Deo, who asked if I would grant him an interview about the symposium on Media and Democracy in the South Pacific we had held at USP the previous week. I thought that was a bit odd because the symposium had ended five days earlier, but I was happy to oblige. It didn’t take long before I realized that Mr Deo was not interested in talking about our symposium at all, but instead was upset about an interview I had given to Radio Australia the day before. In it, I said that despite the lifting in January of censorship under the Public Emergency Regulation, it was apparent that journalists in Fiji are practicing self-censorship in advance of the first rulings from your Tribunal. Mr Deo thus used subterfuge to obtain an interview with me on a subject other than what he told me he would be interviewing me about.
Mr Deo complained during our interview that my comments had gone out internationally. Had I done any research to back up my claim of self-censorship? What proof did I have for this? No, I told him, I hadn’t done a scientific study on this, but I hoped to do so soon because it seems to be a big problem here. I have spoken with a number of Fiji journalists, I assured him, and from what I could tell there is a climate of fear and uncertainty in the country’s news media currently. Now that they are subject to possible fines and even prison sentences if they take a wrong step in their line of work, there seems to be a natural reluctance on the part of journalists to question authority. It’s not what you see in the Fiji media, I told him, it’s what you don’t see. He kept browbeating me and interrupting me. Where was my proof? Where was my study? I asked him to let me answer his questions, but he kept interrupting me, so I ended the interview. He called me back. I told him I would not speak to him again until he apologized for his rude behavior. He called back again, and again. Each time I refused to talk to him. I then sent an email of complaint to CFL News Director Vijay Narayan.
I soon received a telephone call from Mr Narayan. I told him I have never been treated so rudely by an interviewer in decades of giving media interviews, but he seemed to have no problem with the way his reporter treated me. Where did they get their lessons in interviewing, I asked him, from watching BBC Hardtalk? Suffice it to say I didn’t get very far in my complaint to Mr Narayan. I then noticed that CFL had posted a story on its website, headlined: “Claims made but no proper survey done.” (Attached) It criticised me for having no evidence to back up my claim that self-censorship was widespread among Fiji journalists. The story also played on CFL radio stations, including FM 96 and Legend FM. I felt that this was unfair “gotcha” journalism, and that I had been lied to about the purpose of my interview with Mr Deo.
Mr Narayan then compounded the unethical behaviour by CFL. I noticed in looking at the story online later on 11 September that it had been updated at 5:15 that afternoon. It added this line:
He also said that we were rude and thinks that we are running a newsroom like BBC Hardtalk.
I never said that to Mr Deo in my interview with him. I said that to Mr Narayan in complaining about his reporter’s rudeness. Can a news director add to a reporter’s story something said to him by an interview subject in a complaint about the interviewer? Not under my reading of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice contained in Schedule 1 of the Media Decree. I asked Mr Narayan to preserve the audio of my interview with Mr Deo, as it would prove that a published comment was made not in an interview with his reporter but instead in a telephone call of complaint to him. Mr Narayan informed me that the audio had been erased. He admitted what he did, however, in an email to me of 12 September, a copy of which is attached.
After addressing your complaint about Dhanjay, I resumed the original line of questions that Dhanjay had been unable to complete in his interview with you.
The problem with that explanation is that he did not inform me he was interviewing me. I was obviously, from what Mr Narayan quoted me as saying, not addressing the subject of the original interview. Instead I was complaining about his reporter’s conduct. I would never have agreed to another interview due to the agitated state I was in as a result of what I had just been through. Mr Narayan is thus guilty of unethical behavior for not arranging and conducting an interview openly and fairly and/or for failing to inform me in advance of the format, subject, and purpose of their interview, or even that I was being interviewed for publication and/or broadcast.
As if to confirm that they were conducting a vendetta against me, Communications Fiji Limited, Mr Deo, and Mr Narayan published another story the following day, a copy of which is also attached. It purported to show that self-censorship was not being practiced by journalists in Fiji by interviewing several journalists who denied the practice. It again named me and reported that the managers of several media outlets denied that I had ever spoken to any of their journalists. This subsequent story arguably amounts to deceiving the public in an attempt to further smear me. Journalists could hardly be expected to admit to such a shameful practice self-censorship. Their denying it hardly disproves its existence. Self-censorship among Fiji journalists has been loudly complained of by numerous stakeholders recently. For CFL and its staff to attack me on this issue is cowardly in the extreme.
I believe that what Mr Deo did on 11 September contravened Section 5, “Subterfuge” and/or Section 23, “Interviews” of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice contained in Schedule 1 of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010. I believe that what Mr Narayan did on 11 September also contravened Section 5 and/or Section 23 of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice. I trust that you will impose appropriate penalties on them and on their employer, Communications Fiji Limited. I hope that this would include the broadcast and publishing online of a sincere apology to myself for the unethical treatment to which I have been subject. The broadcast should be given the same prominence and frequency that the original story was given across all of CFL’s stations on which it was broadcast.
The standards of journalism in Fiji badly need improving. My understanding is that this is the intent of the statutory regulations enshrined in the Media Code of Ethics and Practice contained in Schedule 1 of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010. People need to be protected from the type of unethical and now illegal “gutter” journalism practiced by Communications Fiji Limited and at least some of its staff.
I would ask you to require your deputy, Matai Akauola, to recuse himself from dealing with this complaint in any way due to the enmity he has displayed to me in the past.
I look forward to receiving from you a confirmation that this complaint has been received and that it will be given due consideration.
Marc Edge, PhD
Co-ordinator, Discipline of Journalism
University of the South Pacific

Grubby blogger opens up a can of worms on himself

Blowhard blogger Graham Davis, an Australian who likes to describe himself as an “international award-winning journalist,” has gone too far this time. Not only am I starting to fight back (watch out, Fiji Sun), but others are joining the fray as well. Some are objecting to his gutter attacks on me. They point out that the ongoing jihad against me by Davis and others is a case of history repeating itself, with the same types of attacks having been made a decade ago on the incoming head of journalism at USP by some of the very same people.
But the most delicious part of it all is that Davis has left himself wide open to criticism after blowing his own cover by adding a disclaimer to the bottom of his latest blog entry: “Graham Davis is now a part-time advisor to Qorvis Communications.” Perhaps he felt that was something to be proud of, but U.S.-based Qorvis, which advises the military . . . er, interim government in Fiji on public relations matters, has a nasty reputation worldwide. Much of the work Qorvis does on behalf of repressive regimes apparently consists of manipulating social media content, including sending out false information on Twitter, Facebook, and . . . well, blogs.
Some commenters on the Grubsheet blog are saying they knew it all along. “For too long those in the journalism world suspected you were attached to Qorvis,” remarked a reader using the handle Media Consultant. “Graham has outed himself,” crowed Shoepolish. “I find it sad that a once respected journalist has fallen so low,” wrote Bye Bye Aiyarse. Others demanded details of the financial arrangements. “How much are you pocketting every month from the poor of Fiji,” asked Review Commentator. But the poster who got in the most cutting jibes was doubtless the aptly-named Graham is a sell out, who began by insulting Davis with irony. “Congratulations on your new job! It is about time you get paid for your loyal support for Bainimarama and Khaiyum. It is pleasing to see in this new meritocracy that hard work and arse licking is being rewarded.” The poster soon got down to brass tacks, excoriating Davis: “You are a hypocrite of the worst kind.”

To think you once worked for the BBC world service which has a proud tradition of delivering unbiased news to the repressed people of the world. What would your fellow journalists from the BBC have to say about one of their former colleagues being paid to peddle propaganda for a dictator. You have sold out. You are a Judas and you can no longer call yourself a journalist.

To give Davis credit, he allows readers their say, and then gives it back in spades. “There is a strange notion of some kind of conspiracy here,” he replied, insisting: “There is none.” Graham is a sell out saw an opening and pounced. “His career is over as a serious journalist because no longer is he seeking out the truth for his readers,” the poster declared. “He is now paid to manipulate the truth to help keep a dictator in power.”

Understand that every word written from Davis on Fiji from now on will be written to a brief from Qorvis and the Ministry of Information. Every word will now be approved by them. This is nothing new for Davis as he has been working for them unpaid for a number of months in order to get the contract.

Davis protested the purity of his intentions. “It is my opinion that I peddle, not propaganda for the regime, Qorvis or anyone else. My views are genuinely held and heartfelt.” Others then interrupted with side issues what was getting to be a very watchable catfight, and it was almost 24 hours before Graham is a sell out resumed the assault, this time with telling effect.

Graham is a sell out: Can you give me another example of an award winning journalist being paid by a dictator’s PR firm who writes independently and objectively on the dictatorship?

Graham Davis: Were I to have embraced my opinions as a direct result of my relationship with Qorvis, you would have a point. But my support for the multiracial agenda of the Bainimarama government is long-standing and pre-dates the relationship by many years. Nice try, though.

Graham is a sell out: You claim your views have not been changed by payment so let me re-word my question. Can you think of any other award winning journalist who shared exactly the same views and opinions as human rights abusing dictator?

Graham Davis: I will not be interrogated by an anonymous, faceless nobody. I have given you an answer. This is merely rude and gratuitous. Bugger off.

This from the man who took me to task for telling him to “drop dead” when he accused me of hubris. Graham is a sell out was obviously cutting Davis to the quick. I could almost see his porcine visage reddening as he composed his profane reply, with spittle forming at the corners of his mouth. Graham is a sell out kept up the assault, baiting Davis.

Graham is a sell out: I have been taken to the camp for expressing my views and so I wish to remain anonymous.. Though I am a bit of a showoff and I would love to speak openly so I will tell you what. You start exposing the Human Rights abuses of this regime and do some investigative journalism on Fiji, instead of your regime puff pieces, and I will post on grubsheet under my real name.

Graham Davis: Honestly, aren’t we Mr Goody Two Shoes personified. Human rights abuses? What about the abuse of the human rights of 40 per cent of the population by the Qarase Government? You choose to cast me as a spin doctor for the dictator. Fine. But what are you doing to assist Fiji back to democratic rule? Hide behind a mask and spruik self-indulgent, self-righteous cant. Again. Bugger off.

Graham is a sell out had carefully baited his line, providing just enough clues to his identity to keep Davis wondering who this was. Now he dropped the bomb and reeled the grubby one in, hook, line, and stinker.

Graham is a sell out: Maybe the next time I meet you at Dilip’s, I will let slip my true feelings and we can have a debate. Sorry not going to happen because now you are a fully paid up informer of the regime.

Graham Davis: So you are in my social circle but you still haven’t got the guts to reveal yourself. How pathetic is that? . . . Citing a friend of mine like you have is a complete disgrace. My opinions are mine, not his. And to drag him into this shows what a low-life you are.

Graham is a sell out: I know his opinions are not yours. As for me being a low life. That may be true. But I have not sold my principles and my credibility for a few lousy bucks.

Dilip is no doubt Suva lawyer Dilip Jamnadas, who is said to be one of Grubsheet’s prime sources of information. Graham is a sell out must have really struck a nerve with Grubby, because Davis never once again engaged his newfound bête noire on subsequent comments he made on the blog entry that was meant to excoriate me. Instead it seems to have blown up in Grubby’s face in more ways than one. Thanks, I really enjoyed that, Graham is a sell out. But you didn’t have to go to all that trouble. No one seems to have noticed that Davis indicted himself in the very first reply he made to a comment on that blog post. In tut-tutting with my foe Thakur Ranjit Singh, Davis let it slip that he has been paid for some time to launch online attacks against me. “I have nothing personal against Marc Edge,” he started to arguebefore likely realizing no one would buy that line of twaddle.

No, that’s not true. I am annoyed that he has attacked me publicly for doing my job, and especially for raising the legitimate public interest issue of whether he used his position as a senior USP academic to gain a personal benefit from a commercial entity.

Davis was referring, of course, to the Fiji Timesadvertorial” I appeared in touting the Suva Point Apartments, which he claimed was unethical for a journalism educator. He demanded to know if I had received anything in return for my endorsement of the new apartment complex on Fletcher Road in Vatuwaqa, where I was the first tenant to move in and which I highly reccomend to anyone. I pointedly ignored his demand until he threatened to take it up with the USP hierarchy and to launch a complaint against the Times with the Media Authority. To save those busy people from being bothered by Grubby, I happily denied taking anything from the Times. He and others have ever since been demanding to know if I received anything from my landlord in exchange for appearing in the article, which I have again ignored, but which I will be happy to deny now.

But it was last May when Graham attacked me for this and other things. He claims his blog is just a “hobby.” But he now admits he has been annoyed with me for some time for fighting back against his blog attacks, or as he puts it, “for doing my job.” Well, a job is something you get paid for, right? It seems the Qorvis quid pro quo has been going on for awhile. Gotcha again, Graham.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and his shadowy Attorney General and Lord-High-Everything-Else Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, can’t stand any criticism or opposition to the dictatorial rule.

Why Has the UN’s ILO Been Kicked Out of an Island Paradise?

Posted: 22/09/2012

There’s trouble in paradise. The military regime that currently runs the small South Pacific  island of Fiji this week added to its pariah status by ‘asking’ a delegation  from the UN’s workplace agency (the International Labour Organisation, or ILO)  to leave the country.

It was politely phrased, but the ILO itself recognised that what it calls a ‘contact mission’ had been ‘aborted’. It is further evidence  that Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and  his shadowy Attorney General and Lord-High-Everything-Else Aiyaz  Sayed-Khaiyum, can’t stand any criticism or opposition to the  dictatorial rule which has, as a by-product, trashed the island’s economy.

The ILO mission was led by world-renowned Sierra Leonean Judge Karoma, who sits on the  International Court of Justice. He and his colleagues were in Fiji to find out  more about the abuse of fundamental workers’ rights – the right to join a union  and bargain with your employer – which its own Committee of Experts (eminent jurists all) had determined the Fijian regime was breaching.

They aren’t the only fundamental human rights the Fijian  regime ignores. Even the Methodists (the largest religious group on the island)  aren’t allowed to meet without specific permission from the regime. Freedom of  speech and freedom of assembly are almost non-existent, and a leading Hong Kong  advocate has recently alleged that the independence of the judiciary has been stolen from the Fijian people.

Trade unionists have seen their right to bargain  collectively gradually rolled up sector by sector under the Essential  Industries Decree, and their rights have been removed entirely in the sugar  mills that are the key industry in Fiji. Worse still are the frequent beatings  and arbitrary  arrests meted out by the police and the army. Union leaders are denied the  right to travel because the regime doesn’t want them spreading the truth  abroad, and if they do get out, they are often arrested on trumped up charges on  their return.

The ILO is not the only international organisation at  loggerheads with the regime. Fiji is suspended from the Commonwealth and by the Pacific Islands Forum. The European Union has suspended several aid programmes and is likely to renew their suspension next Monday. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has this year added Fiji to the list  of countries at risk in its Annual Human Rights Report.

The TUC is working with international  trade unionists, as well as colleagues in Australia and New Zealand where Fijians often find refuge, to help the Fijian trade union movement maintain its  independence, retain its capacity to help working people tackle the twin  challenges of dictatorship and poverty.

What Fijian trade unionists want most  is for people to know what is really going on in Fiji, which is why the TUC  will be leafleting spectators at this November’s rugby matches at Twickenham  and Gloucester (and our colleagues in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions will be doing the same in Limerick). It’s said that the Fijian Prime Minister’s main concern about Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth was the resultant ban  from the Commonwealth Games in India in 2010, and he will be similarly  ostracised from the Edinburgh Games in 2014 unless democracy is restored.

His promise to do just that is now in even more serious  doubt, thanks to the clumsy expulsion of the ILO mission.

The Thakur Ranjit Singh Facebook saga …………

Fiji Sun columnist Thakur Ranjit Singh retracts his false claim that his grandfather had fled to Fiji in 1915 from poverty-stricken India

New Zealand Indians condemn his offensive views of India on his Facebook

By Indian Newslink 29/08/2012 16:16:00

What Thakur Ranjit Singh wrote on Facebook

First Comments on August 11, 2012

As every Indian man and his dog talk about India’s Independence celebration on 15 August, we need to stand back, away from misnomer and misplaced tagging of “Mera Bharat Mahaan” and reflect on our achievement as the largest democracy on earth.

Tagged as the worst country in the world for a woman to live, with largest amount of black money hoarded in Swiss Banks, with most corrupt politicians and officials, with very lucrative businesses and businessmen worldwide, but bereft of human kindness that goes with it.

As a business community, we have done well, how about as human beings? Look at the Olympic medal tally. China with the same population is in top three, while India with a billion people has become a laughing stock.

Do we still have corrupt officials like Kalamadi leading our sporting team? How Is Our Bharat Mahaan? So this Independence Day, bow your head and pray for a miracle to salvage the name of a once proud country, so once again we can say, we are proud to be an Indian. Food for thought for all those suffering from ostrich syndrome. I am proud to be Fijian, and thank my grandfather for running away from India in 1915 for a new home in Fiji.

On this Independence Day, we could not pray for anything more for a prosperous, honest, conscientious and caring nation where all have equality and share in the economic cake.


The “Apology”

On August 15, 2012

(Edited Version)

On this India’s 66th Independence Day, I very humbly request to all my offended Face book friends, and all offended Indians, to forgive me, because I am sorry to have spoken lies about India, and retract everything I said in my posting.

I apologise for bringing any disrepute to the country of Gandhi, Subahash, Tagore, Tilak, Hari Singh Nalwa, Bhagat Singh, Sivaji, Jhashi ki Rani and my ancestor Prithvi Raj Chauhaan. I also regret bringing any tension between good friendship of Fiji and India by talking untruths about India.

In retracting and apologising point by point, I now proudly say as an Indian that

Women have full rights, equality and respect as men in India, which is the best country in the world for women to be born in.

Indian politicians and businessmen do not have any black money in Swiss Banks.

India has very honest, non-corrupt and conscientious politicians.

India is a very compassionate nation where the economic growth and growth in wealth has filtered down to common people in ghettoes.

As a populous nation, we are proud to have achieved the equivalent fame in Olympics.

My grandfather Bansi did not run away from India in 1915 because of poverty in Rajasthan, but wanted a free ride to Fiji on HMS Ganges ship, and hence I ended up in Fiji as an Indentured offspring.


Journo’s comments rile Indian community

By Venkat Raman

29/08/2012 16:27:00

The comments made by popular journalist and media specialist Thakur Ranjit Singh have attracted widespread criticism from a large number of people from the extended Indian community in New Zealand and abroad.

His original comments on Facebook were condemned as ‘outrageous, unwarranted and vicious’ by Members of Parliament and others (three of which appear separately in this section), while many community leaders and readers have said that Mr Singh had ‘condemned a Nation and its people.’

Our editorial appearing under Viewlink reflects the opinions of a majority of our readers. The following contains the views from the community.

The Waitakere Indian Association, of which Mr Singh is the Vice-President, distanced itself from his comments, saying that they did not represent either the views of the organisation or those of any of its executive committee members.

Credibility questioned President Sunil Chandra told this newspaper that the Executive Committee at its emergency meeting held on August 13 decided to suspend him from the post of Vice-President, since “there are questions about his personal credibility and commitment to the advancement of the Indian community in New Zealand.”

“All of us are proud of our Indian ancestry and the progress made by India since its independence on August 15, 1947. Our Committee was shocked by the comments made by Mr Singh. They are clearly unacceptable,” Mr Chandra said.

Magsons Hardware Mitre 10 Mega Chairman & Managing Director and the Hindu Council of New Zealand President Vinod Kumar described Mr Singh as a ‘failed journalist.’

“His remarks and comments are always without any base and research. Let alone that, his thoughts are of hatred. We as Hindu Council of New Zealand totally condemn his remarks on the Facebook,” he said.

Muslim community leader Ahemad Bhamji said he wished to disassociate himself completely from the comments of Mr Singh.

“I am disappointed that Thakur Ranjit Singh had chosen to write derogatory remarks about India and Indians. I am proud that my ancestors were from India and I want the future generations to have the same sentiments. I am sure that my disappointment with Mr Singh is shared by a majority of Indo-Fijians,” he said.

Bhartiya Samaj Charitable Trust Chairman Jeet Suchdev said that he was “utterly disappointed” with such remarks.

“I agree with all the respondents who condemned the senseless remarks about our Mother India. His knowledge of a great country is poor and his bad attitude towards the people of India is deplorable,” he said.

Manukau Indian Association President Balu Mistry said that Mr Singh’s comments amounted to treachery.

“I have known Thakur Ranjit Singh and I am surprised by his ‘rejection of being Indian’ and running away from India. Many people did not run away from India to Fiji, but were forced to being indentured labourers,” he said.

Insensitive remarks V4U Entertainments Limited Director Viraf Todywalla said Mr Singh’s remarks against India and Indians were very disturbing.

“Every country has its positive and negative factors and nobody has the right to highlight the negatives of any country or its people the way Mr Singh did, that too taking Independence Day as a subject. What kind of a person does that? It was also disturbing that he had a few like-minded people liking and praising his comments,” he said.

Apurv Shukla, who is in the media, said that Mr Singh had expressed his own views and that no self-respecting person would agree with them.

“But in a country where Freedom of Speech is a fundamental right and the press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy, there is room for everyone’s views. India has shown to the world that it is a truly secular country, where religion never came in the way of merit. Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption has brought that scourge to the forefront of public discourse,” he said.

There were a few comments on the Facebook agreeing with Mr Singh.



Posted without comment as I have no way of verifying the information. The IP address is from Israel.


I tried to get my letter printed in your national papers but one refused and one replied they had checked with the Fiji Army spokesperson and he said it was false. I assure you it is not false so I ask you to print my letter.

Gilad Gamburg



My name is Gilad Gamburg.

My brother is a Captain in the IDF and was working the Nitzana crossing when the Fijian Soldiers from UN’s peacekeeping force in Sinai were locked out to miss a sports game.

He has been instructed that Fiji peacekeapers are to recieve no special assistance from the IDF as they are no longer to be considered a friend of Israel  or even neutral.

He was told that in 2001 Israel and Fiji had discussions on establishing diplomatic relations but Fiji declined as they wished to remain neutral as participoants in UN peace keaping operations.

The IDF has noted that Fiji has recently made diplomatic relations with Iran, and therefore with Hisbollah, and is recieving financial assistance from them.

Iran is an enemy of Israel and has threatened to wipe us of the face of the earth. Therefore if Fiji troops expect any assistane from the IDF from now on they may find it minimal and probably too late.

Loosing a key to a gate is only a warning that thing have changed. The first sign that Hisbollah is recieving or treating Fiji as a friend and the Fijis  may find that Sinai is a very dangerous place.


I petitioned the Prime Minister and the Military Council in a Petition dated 21st June 2012 for the dismissal of the Attorney General………..Justice William Marshall.

A message from Justice William Marshall

The fact is that the Attorney General completed the removal of judicial independence in Fiji in April 2012. The judges no longer do their duty and do not serve the people of Fiji. They do what they believe the Attorney General would wish them to do. In many cases this is specifically explained to them by or on behalf of the Attorney General.

Some judges have been doing this since 2010 since they are used to the executive telling the judges what to do. Others have started doing it in April 2012 because they know that if they do not do what the Attorney General desires they will be dismisssed. A key “tipping point” in this process was when it became known on or about 12th April 2012 that my contract would not be renewed.

So I petitioned the Prime Minister and the Military Council in a Petition dated 21st June 2012 for the dismissal of the Attorney General.
The Petition and the supporting documents disclose all the relevant facts. They can be accessed, perused or downloaded in whole and in part from this website. My duty is to appraise informed opinion in Fiji of these facts which prove that Fijians are being cheated and are being deprived of justice in their law suits both criminal and civil.

Why a website? I have no choice. The Attorney General runs censorship and untrue propaganda. At the end of my contract I wrote an uncontroversial letter to the Fiji Times on 15th July 2012. I said on behalf of myself and my wife, that we wished to thank the people of Fiji for their welcome and their support to us. It did not appear in the Fiji Times.

William Marshall

1 September 2012

The Petition may be found at

Here comes Republika! promising investigative reporting on current affairs, corruption and politics, without the propaganda.


Our entry into the market has been described as triggering a “magazine war” which is nonsense and baseless.  The established magazines have their own approaches and audiences but a wide gap currently exists in the market with nobody willing to take on what’s perceived to be a sensitive and difficult market – current affairs, corruption and politics, without the propaganda.

Repúblika will bring back investigative journalism, ask the hard questions without fear or favour, be it current affairs, corruption or politics. It affects all of our lives every day, whether we like it or not, so we might as well discuss it.  And with a new constitution in the making, it is an even better time to document the course of Fiji’s political development.

We at Repúblika wish to acknowledge the members of the public who have given us their blessings and wholehearted support. We have come into existence to serve the public and we will only be able to survive with the support of the public.

Marc Edge and Sharon Smith-Johns agree there is self censorship in Fiji (but they are all too scared to say so)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Journalists themselves admit there is no self-censorship

Well, I guess that settles that. There is no self-censorship in the Fiji news media, according to CFL. At least that’s the conclusion they have come to after interviewing several of their fellow journalists. This is great news. A lot of needless concern will now be alleviated. Personally, I am greatly relieved that this is settled because, frankly, I was getting worried.
I don’t know how I could have been so wrong. And not just me, of course, but others. Like Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns. Why else would she have urged Fiji journalists to “report fully and without fear or favour” and to not use the Media Decree “as an excuse not to do their jobs.” And apparently other folks have also had their facts backwards, too. Like Matilda Bogner, the United Nations Human Rights representative for the Pacific. She actually DID do a study on this subject for World Press Freedom Day in May. Here’s what she said.
It appears that a culture of self-censorship continues to exist for journalists in Fiji. A preliminary media content analysis conducted recently by my office, comparing Fiji’s two main daily newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun, before and after the lifting of the PER, suggests that there has been no distinguishable change in the level of criticism of the Fiji Government observed in either newspaper.
Then there are the women’s rights groups in Fiji that say they had newspaper advertisements rejected that highlighted issues concerning the ongoing constitutional review process. Shamima Ali of the Fiji’s Women’s Crisis Centre said two weeks ago that both daily newspapers in Fiji told them to tone down the language in the ads.

“One of them wanted to have a meeting to tone down the ad, which we refused to do, and a spokesperson from there said ‘I hope you understand’,” she said. “The other said ‘sorry we can’t’, after deliberating on it for nearly two and a half days.”

Talk about a climate of fear. They’re even reportedly turning down advertising, which newspapers rarely do. And just yesterday, the Fiji Labour Party demonstrated that it, too, was labouring under an illusion in its submissionto the Contitutional Commission hearings. “The media in Fiji continues to operate as though it is still under strict censorship,” it said. “Indeed, the environment is still quite substantially coercive and threatening.” It cited the Television (Amendment) Decree 52, under which the licence of any television station that contravenes the 2010 Media Decree can be revoked by the minister responsible without appeal, as an example of press intimidation. “We do not have an independent, free, liberated media in Fiji. The fines for incurring the wrath of the regime are so excessive that no media organization would dare fall foul of it.”

The repercussions of such a cowed media are fatal for the success of a “free and open” consultation process. Articles, opinions or comments that question the regime or oppose its views are rarely, if ever, run. For instance, not a single mention was made in the news pages of the Fiji Times of the Constitution Commission’s media conference held on 19 July 2012. The Fiji Times ran a feature article two days later buried in the inside pages of its publication. How many people would have read the strong criticism voiced by Commission Chair Professor Yash Ghai, particularly of Decrees 57 and 58?

At our symposium last week, the topic of self-censorship became a bit of a sore point. CFL news director Vijay Narayan, who never responded to my attempts to recruit him to sit on a panel on this topic at our symposium, appeared anyway in his role as a journalist and made a speech from the front row. “Everyone who is commenting on claims that there is widespread self-censorship in the country are making comments without any proper surveys conducted with journalists and media outlets,” he said. To which Fiji Times lawyer Richard Naidu deliciously retorted: “To suggest that the media is not operating under a set of self-censorship rules means that one of us is on the wrong planet.” Watch the video here. In reporting on this controversy today, Alex Perrottet interviewed Fiji TV’s legal manager, Tanya Waqanika, who said that Fiji journalists are still afraid to ask tough questions because of the penalties contained in the Media Decree. “The journalists, they see the penalties,” she told Perrottet. “If you were in that situation, and there’s a court case currently against the Fiji Times, for any person, it freaks them out. No one wants to be fined.” Perrottet, who is researching his Master’s thesis on this topic at Auckland University of Technology, even gave us a preview of his research on AUT’s website Pacific Media Centre.

There is extensive evidence that due to censorship, the print media in Fiji is suffering from self-censorship, as they are not sure where the line will be drawn by the government.

So I don’t know why CFL is shooting at me every day. I’m not even the messenger. I’m only an educator. And I obviously have a lot of work to do.

The most balanced report on the the Media and Democracy symposium to date.

Fiji self-censorship claims spark furious media freedom debate


–>Vijay Narayan

Communications Fiji’s news director Vijay Narayan speaking at the Media and Democracy symposium at the University of the South Pacific last week. Image: David Robie/PMC

Pacific Scoop: Analysis – By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch

If robust debate is lacking in the Fiji media, there was certainly plenty of it at the Media and Democracy Symposium hosted at the University of the South Pacific.

In the aftermath, award-winning Communications Fiji news director Vijay Narayan criticised conference organiser Dr Marc Edge, head of the USP journalism school, for asserting there is a practice of self-censorship in Fiji media – without providing proof from a specific study.

Narayan and fellow reporters opened their website article on Tuesday with: “Everyone who is commenting on claims that there is widespread self-censorship in the country are making comments without any proper surveys conducted with journalists and media outlets.”

Fiji self-censorshipIndeed, Narayan was one of those vocal journalists at last week’s conference who defended the Fiji media’s performance.

Self-censorship claim But lawyer and outspoken regime critic Richard Naidu, also a former award-winning journalist, told Narayan at the symposium: “To suggest that the media is not operating under a set of self-censorship rules means that one of us is on the wrong planet.”

Narayan had said no one from his organisation was threatened or taken to the barracks. He said that since the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulation in January (which included strict censorship), his media organisation had not consulted the Ministry of Information before publishing.

“We have never called them [Ministry of Information] after the PER was lifted because we are comfortable about our decisions. We have never been taken to the camp, we have never appeared before the media tribunal,” he said, adding that “some people want to be heroes”.

He added that people like Naidu had not been in a newsroom and didn’t know what it was like.

Naidu retorted: “I worked in a newsroom – you can’t tell me I don’t know. If your organisation hasn’t gone to court I don’t think it’s doing its job.

“That’s why most media organisations have lawyers.”

Earlier in the panel discussion, representatives from the Fiji Sun and Fiji TV had told their stories of operating under censorship, before the lifting of the PER.

Before PER lifting

Naidu Tuwere Waqanika

Fiji lawyer Richard Naidu on a panel with Fiji Sun deputy editor Josua Tuwere and Fiji TV legal manager Tanya Waqanika. Photo: PMC

Josua Tuwere, deputy editor of the Fiji Sun, said censorship had been a good thing for them.“It made us better journalists – we were forced to think about the repercussions of what we write,” he said.

While Tuwere said censorship was “all civil, no one was threatened ever”, Fiji TV’s legal manager, Tanya Waqanika, had a different experience.

“We had our fair share of detention, fair share of threats,” she said.

She said Fiji TV operated under censorship by consulting with the Ministry of Information and obtaining prior permission for a story to avoid a backlash once it was broadcast.

She said it involved the ministry disallowing vital stories such as one on the Sigatoka hospital running out of water.

Issues remain And even though the PER has been lifted, and Fiji TV was operating under a “business as usual” approach, it still consulted the government this year before running an advertisement from a client which featured brief footage of military men with guns.

She also said journalists were still afraid, and apprehensive to ask the questions they would normally ask.

“The journalists, they see the penalties. If you were in that situation, and there’s a court case currently against The Fiji Times, for any person, it freaks them out,” she said.

“No one wants to be fined.”

It resonates with Naidu’s claim it was of no impact that the decree had not been used against a journalist. He said the threat of the fines were penal enough – a journalist can be fined up to F$50,000 without the right to appeal. (The media decree provides penalties of $100,000 for media organisations, $25,000 for publishers and editors and $1000 for individual journalists).

Naidu described the six-month extension of Fiji TV’s licence “more like a good behaviour bond than a licence” while Waqanika said: “We just have to play it safe” and “We have to make a business decision”.

Now Narayan might be able to defend Communications Fiji and its website FijiVillage, and he is correct in his assertion that there has been no specific study on FijiVillage’s reporting, but perhaps he was ignoring the elephant in the room after hearing from Tuwere and Waqanika.

Evidence is in His organisation has published an update yesterday on the self-censorship debate. Narayan and fellow journalists Dhanjay Deo and Sarah Vamarasi claim there is no self-censorship, after checking with Fiji Times editor Fred Wesley and Fiji Sun publisher Peter Lomas, and their own editors.

That is hardly an academic study.

They also say Fiji TV says it will not comment. How they would have handled an honest answer may have been interesting.

This writer is undertaking a study into the print media in Fiji and other Pacific countries and there is extensive evidence that due to censorship, the print media in Fiji is suffering from self-censorship, as they are not sure where the line will be drawn by the government.

As Richard Naidu pointed out, the Media Industry Development Decree is full of subjective tests.

“What is and who decides what is against public order? What is and who decides what is against the public interest?” he said, referring to the decree’s punishments of fines and jail terms for those that fail to pass the test.

He also said the Code of Ethics enshrined in the decree was cumbersome”: “It does not work as a law. A law is required to be precise and accurate. A code is a guideline, a set of practices. A code cannot be enforced as a law.”

Drawing the line The Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns, to her credit, presented and sat through the whole two-day symposium, and was willing to be interviewed by any media or student journalist.

She gave me a small insight into where the government’s line might be.

She recognised it “would only be natural to have caution” for journalists coming out of censorship, but said: “Come out, there’s no need to be afraid”.

“It’s like all of us – the laws are only there for when you or I break them. And the chances of you or me ever breaking the law, apart from a speeding ticket or fine, it’s never going to happen because we know how to behave because we know what’s right.

“And so journalists know what’s right as well.

“It’s always that small one percent of people that want to push it to the limit, and that’s what it’s for. We want to be able to say: no, we want social harmony.”

But certainly more than that one percent feel intimidated. And what is it that the one percent are prone to publish against “social harmony”?

Smith-Johns said journalists need to “embrace what the next step is” but at least publicly, she hasn’t shone too bright a light on that area between the next step and the abyss should they step too far.

Media ‘at fault’ She did say there must be caution: “We are very sensitive to the racial and religious issues here. And in the past, that’s always what has really got the media into trouble…

There’s been some hard stuff said in the media that you wouldn’t be allowed to run in the media anywhere in the world.”

Tuwere from the Fiji Sun agreed – he said the media “were irresponsible in their reporting, especially on issues of race”.

Perhaps if journalists steer clear of racial invective, which is the right thing to do anyway, they can get away with much more than they are currently attempting regarding analysis and criticism of the government.

At the symposium, a former head of journalism at USP, Shailendra Singh, said it was certainly not a “cut and dried” issue as some would like to make out.

“More cautious, more responsible and more circumspect, doesn’t mean self-censorship,” he said.

Perhaps this is not only a time to be more circumspect, but more courageous.

But that’s easy for me to say, writing from New Zealand.

As an example, Smith-Johns referred to the recent accusations of self-censorship levelled at newspapers by Shamima Ali, coordinator of the Women’s Crisis Centre.

Smith-Johns argued that when publishers did not run Ali’s advertisement they were not under any government directive and they made their own decision, probably based on readers’ tastes.

‘Let public decide’ She said there was a lot of “irrelevant” information in the release despite the fact the women’s groups had a lot of good things to say.

“I would have preferred that ad to run because it was quite silly in a lot of ways and quite defendable from our point of view,” she said.

“Let the public see what they are saying. I’m sure a small percentage of people would agree with them and a large percentage would disagree.”

So Smith-Johns and the government are happy for the papers to run “silly” press releases, as people can make their own minds up. It seems, however, that they don’t trust people making their minds up about some other issues, hence the decree and its fines for those that “push it to the limit”.

From what we saw at the Media and Democracy Symposium – and the reporting of it in the press the next day – there are not a lot of limits being pushed.

Alex Perrottet is contributing editor for Pacific Media Watch, a masters student at AUT University researching comparative journalism in three Pacific countries and was at the Media and Democracy conference in Fiji. He also has a law degree.

Source: 8103 Pacific Media Watch

The reply to “Edgefest” on Grubsheet……”What Davis does, of course, is hardly journalism. He is, instead, an attack dog devoted to hounding anyone who questions any actions of the Interim Government in Fiji. To suggest that I am not in favour of social responsibility in journalism is a distortion”.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do journalism standards in Fiji need raising?

One of the points of contention that emerged from our symposium on Media and Democracy in the South Pacific at USP last week was whether the standards of journalism in Fiji need raising or not. As usual, the topic became one of bitter disagreement. My understanding when I was hired as Head of Journalism at USP a little more than a year ago was that I was here to help bring standards of journalism instruction at USP up to an international level and thus help to improve journalism in Fiji and across the South Pacific. Having been a journalist in Canada for 20 years, holding a PhD in the subject, and having taught journalism since 1998 at universities in four countries, I am well-qualified to do so. I believe that the need for higher standards in journalism here is USP’s official position, as articulated by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Esther Williams in opening the conference. David Robie, a Professor of Journalism at Auckland University of Technology and a former Head of Journalism at USP, disagreed with this contention, however. Then he read a Fiji Times article that covered a paper he had presented. Suddenly Fiji journalism standards didn’t seem too good, as he complained in a letter to the editor.
Your reporter has given no insights into what it is actually about. My interview with your reporter has been reduced to two selective sentences in your newspaper, which is hardly fair and balanced journalism. “Why” is a fundamental tenet of news reporting yet your story does not provide this critical component of any good news story — context.
The need for Fiji journalism to improve was even stressed by Sharon Smith-Johns, Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Information, who until earlier this year acted as the country’s chief censor under the Public Emergency Regulation, which imposed martial law on the country in 2009. In what was undoubtedly the most important message to come out of the symposium, she urged journalists in Fiji to not let the past three years of censorship be an excuse for failing to fully inform Fijians.

You will hear a lot about self censorship, the notion that journalists in Fiji are too afraid to report fully and without fear or favour. Such fears are understandable in the transition from censorship to freedom. But I urge journalists not to use this as an excuse not to do their jobs. . . . I know some of you have a jaundiced view about the Fiji government’s attitude to media freedom. As a country, we are a work in progress. But huge progress has been in achieving genuine democracy.

The naysayers, of course, blame the news media for fomenting the political instability that led to the 2000 coup and advocate tight controls such as contained in the 2010 Media Decree. It provides fines for what were once ethical lapses and even prison sentences for journalists found to have reported something contrary to the national interest, whatever that is. Australian blogger Graham Davis dubbed last week’s symposium “Edgefest” and attacked me online and in the Fiji Sun for advocating “total freedom for the local media at a time of intense discussion over the appropriate model for developing countries such as Fiji.” He contrasted that with the views of my predecessor as Head of Journalism at USP, Shailendra Singh, who “has advocated more social responsibility.”
What Davis does, of course, is hardly journalism. He is, instead, an attack dog devoted to hounding anyone who questions any actions of the Interim Government in Fiji. To suggest that I am not in favour of social responsibility in journalism is a  distortion of the truth. Instead I teach students the need to balance press freedom with responsibility. As an object lesson of the need for social responsibility, I use the example of Yellow Journalism that railroaded the U.S. government into the Spanish-American War in 1898. I often mention how history repeated itself when the U.S. press didn’t do its job well enough in the run-up to that country’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. I also use the example of press freedom in my country, where it is not absolute as under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but instead is balanced against the rights of others in society not to be subject to hate speech.
If you want to see for yourself some of the discussion that went on at our symposium, as well as interviews with our Chief Guest, Professor Robert Hackett from Canada, and myself, I would suggest watching Fiji TV’s excellent “Close Up” programme from Sunday, which can be viewed online here, here, and here.

Posted by at 8:20 PM