(+) Sydney Morning Herald Makes Mockery of Claim to Free and Independent Media

If Bainimarama's public off-the-cuff statements have not always helped his international image, far more persistent damage is done by the so-called free media. The Sydney Morning Herald provides yet another example.

Reporting on what Bainimarama said to Auckland-based Radio Tarana,  the paper  said "Fiji's military regime has called on Australia and New Zealand to lift their sanctions against it, or face a two-year wait to post senior diplomats back to the South Pacific nation." Unless travel bans on the regime and its supporters were lifted, no high commissioners would be approved for the Australian and New Zealand diplomatic posts in Fiji." "I don't think it (diplomatic appointments) will be on the agenda in the next 24 months," Bainimarama apparently told New Zealand's Radio Tarana on Thursday.

So what did Radio Tarana report?

"Fiji will not accept High Commissioners from Australia and New Zealand into the country, until the two countries lift the sanctions they have imposed against his government. Bainimarama says the return of the High Commissioners from the two countries will not be on the agenda for a while, and the two countries know this."

And what did Bainimarama actually say?

“A lot of people do not understand what we are trying to do in Fiji. So, on that note there will be no restoration of High Commissions until the lifting of the sanctions. That is understandable too. And they understand that. McCully understands that Smith understands that. NZ and Australia understand that...So that’s not really a big deal.”

The SMH disagreed. 

It was a big deal. Fiji was again threatening Australia and New Zealand. There was no mention of the mutual "understanding" which, incidentally means that AusNZ will not accept a Fiji High Commissioner nor that all three countries have said the restoration of full diplomatic relations will take time. Neither, of course, was there any mention of Bainimarama's reasons.  Yet  it had no difficulty retracing Fiji's wrongdoings, or in turning for "a while" into "facing a two year wait" and "24 months."

This small exchange of non-news provided the SMH with another opportunity to inform its readers about the "military coup" that has ousted the "democratically elected government ...tightened its grip on power, overturning the constitution... sacking all judges, imposing widespread media censorship, expelling foreign journalists and arresting and harassing people that oppose it." This is very much par for the course, of course. Fiji's idyllic past has been "couped" into its horrific present.

The paper would probably claim this was necessary background information for readers, and so it might have been had Bainimarama's reasons for saying "A lot of people do not understand what we are trying to do in Fiji" also been given some mention. In its absence, the "background" is a none too subtle example of sublimal messaging, and the publication of the bloated non-story a further example of how our supposedly free press stoop to propaganda.


Wondering... said…
the "military coup" that has ousted the "democratically elected government ...tightened its grip on power, overturning the constitution... sacking all judges, imposing widespread media censorship, expelling foreign journalists and arresting and harassing people that oppose it." This is very much par for the course, of course. Fiji's idyllic past has been couped into its horrific present.

But isnt the above true...? Don't readers deserve to know these...? Croz, could you identify which of these "allegations" are false..? It would greatly help me understand.

Thanks Croz. Your blog is good.
Croz said…
Wondering, It's not whether these things are true or not; it's that this is only one side or interpretation of events. The SMH's "background" is always the same. It never explains, from other perspectives, why these events happened, and it never reports anything positive about what's going on in Fiji.

I see this as lack of balance, and an abuse of media freedom,unworthy of an independent press. That it does not declare its "leaning" is even more reprehensible. But then, what paper does?
Best wishes, Croz
TuMa said…
The last time I checked the Sydney Morning Herald was owned by Fairfax. But I could be wrong.
Jon said…
Mr Walsh

You decry SMH's bias by inferring that Bainimarama's reasons for saying 'A lot of people do not understand what we are trying to do in Fiji' was not also given some mention.

In the 13th paragraph of the SMH article to which you refer, the following was reported:
"He [Bainimarama] had 'clearly stated over and over again' that Fiji will hold elections in 2014, after the constitution and electoral systems have been reformed and corruption eliminated."

Perhaps you missed that paragraph. If not, then I respectfully suggest that you are as guilty as the SMH of displaying bias.

In your reply to Wondering, you mention that the SMH (along with other newspapers) does not declare its leaning. This comment is rather unworthy of you, since it implies that any paper’s readership is unable (or not intelligent enough) to determine editorial or journalistic leaning by themselves and need to rely on ‘+’, ‘-', ‘o’ or combinations thereof to understand which way the story is slanted.
Jon said…
Regarding my last point, the bias of reader and the bias of the writer can lead to difficulty interpreting which way a story is truly biased. For example, the extension of PER. You used to report these with ‘-‘, inferring that it was a black mark against the government. Recently you have reported a ‘o -‘, inferring that because the reimposition has continued for so long, it is now just background news, albeit slightly detrimental to the government.

However, what of those people who might believe that there is a credible threat to the stability of Fiji? Surely the fact that PER have been extended would warrant a ‘+’ in their eyes. After all it would demonstrate the government is serious about looking after the security of Fiji’s citizens.

Therefore, in this example, those who don’t believe there is a credible threat would see every extension as ‘-‘, those who do fear unrest would see extensions as ‘+’ and those who are bored with the whole thing (because they know that nothing they say or do will make any difference) would give it a ‘o’.

For myself, I’d say it warrants a ‘oo’…
Proud Fijian said…
@ jon and Wondering

You both have missed the point of Crozs' comment.

SMH emphasized " Fiji's military regime has called on Australia and New Zealand to lift their sanctions against it, or face a two-year wait to post senior diplomats back to the South Pacific nation."

The article was made to appear that Bainimarama had threatened NZ-Aus. Which was not in what I have read from recent articles in the news. There's a plan for Bainimarama to meet McCully in Hong Kong. Dialogue has started between the three governments.

SMH inmy reading was negative (-) towards the resumption of dialogue and the interim government
Croz Walsh said…
TuMa. Thanks. You are correct. I'll amend the post. It's no excuse but such errors are the downside of being a one-man operation.

Jon. You are partly correct so thank you for your comment. Brief mention was made of Bainimarama's concerns, but I hope you'll agree with my main point: it was not a balanced presentation. Proud Fijian hits the nail on the head.

Your +-o comments are well taken, but at least I try to declare a position, and - means against government. No other blog does this.

As for your faith in the general Australian public (or any other public) knowing the political leaning of newspaper they trust, I am less sure. Many people lack the time and inclination to search deeper, and most think that if it's in print, it's most probably true. What do you check out about stories on Tibet or Venezuela?
Jon said…
My ‘faith’ (although I would term it my jaundiced view) in the public stems from the likelihood that, as individuals, they are already aware of their own political leanings. In general people gravitate to those media which they feel most closely reflect their own beliefs, in the same way that people are naturally friendly towards those of like mind.

The ‘nature vs nurture’ question of which comes first is one best answered by sociologists and psychologists, but I’m sure that even the most uneducated person would know whether they are conservative or liberal. Neither, in themselves, is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, however the lazy thinking that often leads people to blindly follow the dogma which is attached to either end of the political spectrum is an anathema.

In contrast to that I find your site very informative and enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoy the many lucid (and even some of the more illucid) comments by contributors. My point about the various symbols you place next to your articles is merely that they are a little condescending to those who, having read your articles, are probably well aware of whether or not the posting portrays the government in a positive, negative or neutral light. Still – it’s your blog and, as you rightly say, it’s unique in that respect.

Finally, asking me about Venezuela was opportune since I hail from that part of the world. There are some intriguing parallels between Chavez and Bainimarama don’t you think? Is Venezuela in the present day Fiji’s future post 2014?
Croz Walsh said…
What do other readers think about the symbols? The idea started because in my lectures to students I would alway state my biases on contraversial issues. I thought this was being fair.

Chavez and Bainimarama? Who knows. Jon, your comments are very much appreciated.
Qanibulu said…
@ Croz & Jon ...

You both raise some good points.

At the end of the day you can lead a horse to water but you can't force it to drink.

Speaking of drink I find your battery terminals particurarly hic helpfrool hic after I have had a hic few to drink so I hic dont havfr ta read hic the nonsenee stuff..

Evry moning hic I connect ma jumper leads hic to ya positive terminal hic and get a kick hic start for the day...

Gud night ZZZZZZzzzzz
Qanibulu said…
Furthermore, hic befor I piss out oops sorry hic I meant pass out hic...

Ther should be hic a clasification (H) hic for Humuor - some people need to see the funny side of things..
laminar_flow said…
Australian And NZ mainstream press often regurgitate the same talking points.

As one reads the ANZ media reports and the syntext of language, one would conclude the nation of Fiji is throwing out their constitution; every other Tuesday.

One might even question the logic of how many constitutions does Fiji actually have?
Wondering said…
Jon, you are spot on.

@ Laminar_Flow - I wouldn't say that Aust / NZ are regurgitating talking points, rather, they're regurgitating facts. Is that such a bad thing?

Dear Croz, (1) I'm also hoping you would start a discussion on the Coup / Clean-up Campaign ( one can call it what one wants) in Niger. I for one would love to contribute.

(2)The fact that you allow everyone (the conservation, the liberals, and the in-betweens) to comment on your postings is great, and I thoroughly applaud it. It creates a healthy environment for constructive debate / discussion, and I for one appreciate being exposed to comments both for and against a particular issue. It quenches my thirst for intellectual enhancement. I only wish that the Fiji authorities and censors would allow the same intellectual satisfaction for the ordinary Jone, Mere and Prasad in Fiji.

My best regards.
Fraenkelwatch said…
Jon, you're not the famous Dr Fraenkelstein per chance? I've seen him mentioned in these columns before but have yet to see him roused from the depths to contribute to these debates. I do hope it is you because I'm an avid fan of the old Fijian practice of draunikau and gather that your good wife is also a seasoned practitioner. Good for her. Canberra can be so dull without a meaningful diversion. One point of clarification, if I may. Is it Jon or Jonathon? I'd imagine you have all sorts of nommes des plumes, given the vilification to which you're routinely subjected by those who wish our country ill. Don't be too dispirited. I too have been falsely accused of being a blood-sucking waste of space and general burden on the vanua and humanity as a whole. And like you, I try to ignore it in the full knowledge that one day, we will rise from our temporary resting places, bleed our enemies dry and be vindicated. However much I detest him, I find myself grateful to Frank for allowing me to keep my Transylvanian citizenship and still be a member of our great republic. My only reservation is the quality of health care in Suva. Where the hell can I get my fangs sharpened without drawing too much attention to myself?
Anonymous said…
In response you your question you can sharpen your fangs on Frankenstein's useless piece of leathery skin...
Jon said…
I’ve found that 40 grade sandpaper is useful for the general form, followed by 120 grade for the finer texture. Finish off with water paper for a smooth glossy shine and you’ll find your gnashers sink into those pristine pink and brown necks like a knife into warm butter.

In answer to your other question - alas, I don’t display the same soccer prowess as Dr Fraenkel. His tackling ability while playing in defence, would’ve made Norman ‘Bite Yer Ankles’ Hunter from Leeds United green with envy.

Mind you – I think you’ve mixed your metaphors here. The Dr Fraenkelstein comment alludes to Dr Frankenstein surely? In which case you should be asking about how to fit a bolt through your neck, not how to sharpen your incisors

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