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.