(+) Michael Field: Another Blogger Who Gets it Wrong

Michael Field is a NZ journalist with many years Pacific reporting experience.  He was fearless in his coverage of the pro-democracy movement in Tonga and in his condemnation of the 1987, 2000 and 2006 Fiji coups -- between which he can see no difference.

Following a succession of negative reports on Fiji (and a rebuke from the NZ Broadcasting Standards Authority for his libellous comments on a former Fiji Attorney-General) Field was declared persona non grata and denied entry to Fiji. He continues to write short, essentially "copy and paste" articles on Fiji for the mainstream media, and he also has a blog where he so departs from normal journalistic standards that his mainstream colleagues must be embarrassed. He has been especially harsh in his treatment of former Fiji High Court judge Nazhat Shameem, the subject of this posting.

In a recent blog posting headed "Fiji Media Joins the Coup" he called Nazhat a "coup perpetrators ... a key player in the judicial coup that sacked a chief justice and ... a close adviser of Bainimarama."

And then went on to write,"Without even the vaguest nod of consultation with the public, Shameem and Bainimarama have come up with some kind of decree defining crime."

IN FACT, the Crimes Decree was essentially the Qarase government draft completed by the Law Reform commission in 2006 before the coup. It is not a creature of this government in substance although it was passed by this government. All relevant bodies were consulted during the drafting process including the judiciary, the Law Society and all the women's groups pre-2006. The 2006 draft also included the treason offences now in the Crimes Decree and none of this was drafted or changed by Nazhat Shameem.

Field then wrote that "subtle changes" were made in defining treason in order to  protect ..those who purported to draft this decree from the very charge itself." These changes, he said, were such that overthrowing the Constitution or the government of Fiji is no longer an offence.

IN FACT, the law on treason is a refection of the law as defined in the Silatolu and Nata cases by Justice Wilson and by the common law, and overthrowing the Constitution or the lawful authority of the Government of Fiji are certainly criminal offences under section 65. Treason is an enactment of the common law on treason about which Field seems to be unaware. It was set out in the Silatolu case and is summarised as an act of levying war against the State. This is still a type of treason.

Changes made to the Decree were not in relation to treason. Section 64, on treason, remained unchanged from the Qarase government draft.  But the offence of inciting communal antagonism with violence (section 65 (2) of the Decree) that formerly  existed as a type of sedition in the old Penal Code, was more clearly defined, and other offences of sedition retained.

However, the point is that the treason definition was drafted not by this government, or Shameem,  but by the Qarase government. And it was drafted after a full consultation process.

Field then went on to attack The Fiji Times and the media for providing "its training facilities to the regime for an Education Camp on Military Decrees" before awarding the "prize for the idiot remark of the day" to Fiji Times managing director Anne Fussell for saying “the media workshop has been invaluable in helping our journalists have a better understanding of the intricacies of the judicial system.”

IN FACT, Field's "camp" was a "workshop", organized by Fussell and Fiji Broadcasting Corp's news editor Stanley Simpson and conducted by Shameem, on court reporting  by the media, although I have no doubt the Criminal Procedure Decree (note, Michael, not the Crimes Decree!) was discussed because it limits what the media may report before cases are transferred to the High Court without risking contempt of court charges.

Field's remarks on the media are incorrect. They are also very unfair. One might have thought that as a fellow journalist he would have recognized just how difficult it is for Fiji journalists to write stories in the present circumstances --  and just how important it is that they get things right.

If it did nothing else, the workshop would have provided an opportunity to discuss matters of concern and interest on the relationship between the media and the law, with Shameem, and with Justice Madigan who, I understand, was also present for one session.

Finally, he asked, "Why didn’t Fiji journalists simply choose not to go to Shemeem’s School of Indoctrination. They’ve done sweet all else."

IN FACT, Michael, it's Shameem (not Shemeem); it was a workshop, not a school of indoctrination,  and the two journalists you named organized it, not Shameem. It's important to get these little things right before you attempt bigger stories.


Chemical said…
Numerous instances of the MSM (mainstream media) "getting it wrong" have been highlighted by you on this blog, and rightfully so.

It is horrifying to note that such articles continue to be published, without "letting the facts get in the way of a good story".

Even more alarming is when these same publishers fail to print a retraction/correction when their "short-cut" reporting is exposed, in many cases by this blog. They feel that they cannot, and must not, ever admit they erred.

Surely, this is an indication that the MSM cannot be trusted to relay factual reports to its audiences, and it may go as far as to indicate that they have no genuine intentions in doing so.

Does this make one wonder if the Interim Fiji Government (IG) was actually RIGHT in imposing the censorship on local media, which they plan to permanently ratify (in principle) in the upcoming Media Decree.

The MSM always cries foul over any attempts to censor their work, but by continuing to abuse their freedom of reporting, they are justifying its imposition.

Could the Fiji Media Decree become a template for media laws internationally? Is the IG on to something here?
White Frangipani said…
I wonder - do the likes of Michael Field feel threatened by Nazhat Shameem? I read some time ago that Nazhat Shameen was conducting workshops for lawyers and others involved in the judiciary because during her time as a judge she observed that a lot of the lawyers were inexperienced in many areas when presenting a court case and she felt the standard needed to be raised. Is this not a good thing that Nazhat Shameem is doing? Why does Michael Field always write negatively about anyone who is trying to help improve standards in the Fiji government departments and public service?
Anonymous said…
Fed up of Michael Field. We all know why he hates Nazhat Shameem. She was probably disinterested in him or his biased and false stories. Madam's workshops are the best things I have ever attended, and I have been to two. One on trial advocacy, and one on appeals in the Fiji Court of Appeal. I came out of them a better lawyer. No frills, practical but learned guidance. Coup perpetrator my foot. Why is she then not a judge now?
Anonymous said…
A big problem with New Zealand journalists. They think they know it all and in fact they know nothing about the complexity of Fiji's situation. Everything is black or white. Saddam Hussein or Saint Peter.
Are you with us or against us? If you are not with us you are against us. "The only choice we have is between Mickey Mouse and the mad mullahs?"
Like this, Croz said…
The two Anonymouses: You MUST at least use a pseudonym. Do this either by writing the name at the end of your comment or by using the Name/URL button. Look before you post! Like this, Croz or ...
Field of polemicists said…
The problem with Michael Field is the seething hatred he has for the regime for kicking him out of Fiji. He's also one of those journalists who thinks he has a monopoly on righteousness and truth when it comes to his own work. Anyone who dares question the conclusions he reaches on any subject is either witheringly dismissed or subject to public denunciation. He's been especially virulent about fellow members of his trade who dare to produce more even-handed coverage of events in Fiji. This is a sign of a man whose ego far outstrips his powers of reason and analysis. There's nothing wrong with regarding all coups as inherently negative. But to lump 2006 in with 2000 and 1987 shows a basic failure to grasp the overriding principles involved; the difference between coups that entrench the racial superiority of one group and one that seeks to eradicate race and produce a level electoral playing field. Field is only different from the likes of the ABC's Sean Dorney and TVNZ's Barbara Dreaver in being less restrained about allowing his personal views to colour the professionalism of his reporting. Some of the stuff on his website borders on the hysterical. He' a polemicist, not a professional journalist, yet continues to report events in Fiji for Fairfax Media in NZ with no apparent restraint for his chronic lack of balance. A sad reflection on the collectivism and failure to break with the pack that characterises the regional media as a whole. (With a few exceptions like David Robie and Graham Davis, who no longer seem to practice their craft full time ). The rest seem to be more worried about what their colleagues will think than challenging their readers or listeners with alternative views.
walbat said…
Is nazat shamim not being paid by the military junta for doing what she's paid to do?

Could she be the 2 anonymouses? hmmm...
Croz Walsh said…
Walbat, The answer is No an No. Do you have any evidence to the contrary, or do you think it acceptable behaviour to attack those with whom you disagree in this underhand manner?

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