(o) Media Censorship, Media Freedom, Media Ownership and Balanced Reporting

This post briefly reviews Professor Wadan Narsey' second paper in a week; then looks at how his paper was reported in New Zealand and by Australia's ABC, and concludes with information of the ABC's ownership and management that raises questions about media freedom and balanced reporting.

Wadan's second paper discusses relationships between the People's Charter and media censorship. On balance it's a worthwhile, thoughtful paper that deserves wide distribution. This is why this link is provided to the paper. I urge you to read it carefully.

I have only two comments on the paper. First, nothing that Wadan writes is "innocuous" (as he claimed of another paper) even when his opposition to the Bainimarama government is wrapped in  partial approvals. Wadan is a politician, a  polemicist, as well as an academic. Secondly, in pointing to contradictions between the Charter and a number of government actions, most particularly media censorship, he has moved the goalposts, blurring the difference between destination and routeway.

Government makes no claim to be observing the Charter. That is for later. At present, it is following a Roadmap, that involves media and other "emergency" (PER) restrictions it claims as necessary for it to "get on with the job."


What Wadan could have done
Wadan's attack would, I think, have been more usefully directed towards showing how media censorship and PER may be impeding the Roadmap. He would be on firmer ground and many people  supportive of the government would have agreed with him -- and these people could influence Government to lift PER and be more flexible towards the media.

For the record, this blog advocates lifting PER as soon as possible. Government says PER will be lifted when the Media Decree is in place, but it could take longer if Government thinks there is any substance to the recurrent blog threats of assassination and kidnapping. This blog also advocates the progressive lifting of media censorship, as the media acknowledges that freedom is not without responsibility. The Fiji Times in particular has a poor record in this respect.

A far greater measure of media freedom is needed if the people of Fiji, better informed by the media,  are to have a stake in shaping the "new" Fiji.  And the bigger their stake, the harder it will be for a future government to turn the clock back  and undo the many worthwhile things this governnment is doing.

The Foreign Media
It is interesting to see how the foreign media has received Wadan's paper. 

NZ's Cafe Pacific, Pacific Scoop and Coupfourpointfive published the paper without comment.  Australia's ABC wrote: "One of Fiji's most respected critics has used the internet to go public with criticism of the country's military-backed government .. Respected economic commentator Professor Waden Narsey used one of the Fiji Freedom Blogs to raise his concerns about censorship and the interim regime's actions."

ABC then went on to cite former Qarase Government Cabinet Minister (and now Australian resident) Ted Young as saying, "Knowing him he is not known to keep quiet when there is an injustice in the way, that's typical of him, to come out despite the harm that he may get into."

I don't think Wadan sees himself as a "Fiji" critic, however respected; I'm unaware of "Fiji Freedom Blogs" Inc. but I doubt Cafe Pacific or Pacific Scoop see themselves as members; and the "balance" of the post must be questioned when it had so little on what Wadan said, followed by an invited comment from a politican ousted in the Coup.

Ironically, by publishing this uninformed, unbalanced and obviously deeply biased report, the ABC has unintentionally demonstrated precisely why the Fiji Government is so wary of unrestrained media freedom.

Who Owns and Manages the ABC?
Media freedom should not be considered in isolation from media ownership and management.

The ABC is entirely funded by the Australian Government and members of its Board are all appointed by Government.  This is how they line up: Managing Director Mark Scott was previously responsible for the editorial content of the Fairfax newspapers; Director Keith Windshuttle thinks the degree of racism in Australia's history had been overstated; Director Steven Skala is also a director of the conservative think-tank Center for Independent Studies; Director Janet Albrechtsen is a columnist for the Murdoch-owned The Australian (that also owns the Fiji Times); and Director Maurice Newman is a personal friend of former Australian PM John Howard.

It is difficult to see how media "balance" can happen from such an assemblage. They don't write the news but their shadows shade the newsroom.

Information on ABC from Wikipedia.

Comments

Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jambalaya said…
Tsk, tsk, tsk!
Anonymous said…
Qarase Government Cabinet Minister (and now Australian resident) Ted Young..."

Is this the same Ted Young that king-hit people in night clubs, and even sported a black eye, on TV for all to see, for a while when one backfired?

If ABC are gathering comment on Fiji from him, they've reached rock bottom.

Cornileus
Croz Walsh said…
Anonymous, If you want to say something derogatory about me, please read the "Leave your comment" instruction. You must state your real name or adopt a pseudonym.
ABC of poor journalism said…
The ABC story is question is a disgrace. It's not really a "news" story at all and I can scarcely believe that it got a run. A sorry example of how far the public broadcaster in Australia has fallen. Increasingly the place is staffed by kids as ambitious MD Mark Scott insists on starting new ventures on the same budget, like the new 24 news channel. It's the only way to explain how such a travesty was put to air.
Anonymous said…
Croz,

Wadan is clearly coming at this issue from a particular political standpoint, and his politics on this is not a secret.

But he is no more political on this or any other issue than you, or Frank Bainimarama, for example.

Being "political" about anything is not automatically a bad thing by definition. Amongst other things, politics is simply part of the process of lobbying and implementing your viewpoint on certain issues. If you are able to back that up with facts and cogent arguments as Wadan has, then you are simply demonstrating the strength of your case.

As for Wadan blurring the distinction between destination and routeway, that is not the issue. The point is that there is no guarantee of arriving at the destination. By contrast, the routeway is empirically verifiable! So if you are with 100% certainty on a lousy routeway with no guarantee of arriving at the destination, sooner or later you need to ask yourself questions.

Moreover, the routeway is not some separate, detached reality from the destination. If you are heading in the right direction, sooner or later, you will be able to perceive the nearing of the destination from the routeway itself. What Wadan has demonstrated in his article, is that after nearly four years of scrambling about to stay in power, the Fiji Regime is no nearer to its Charter destination than it was in 2007. In point of fact, it is also demonstrably further away than it was before 2006! Moreover, there is nothing obvious holding them back form their destination - any legislation they want to pass, they can just pass. Why should they be so worried about opposition. You will alway have that in any political process. So what is the hold-up here?

In our case though, adversarial peer review is of course all part of the academic process. So your comments are taken in that vein. But you might want to try nit-picking the Regime's many flaws in logic and reasoning with as much gusto as you appear to relish straining out gnats from Mike Field and Wadan Narsey.

Puzzled.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Puzzled. Your points are well taken. You will have seen that while agreeing to most of what Wadan has written, I tried to point ways forward that the IG might accept. Most of my criticisms of the IG (and they are numerous) are in this vein because they proceed from what I see to be the realities of the present situation.

Just two short comments: You are right in talking of opposition as part of the "normal" political scene but what of an opposition that threatens murder and family kidnapping? The "hold-up" has much to do to winning the support of ordinary Fijians away from those who have so stongly influenced them in the past, and this takes time.
Anonymous said…
Croz,

Three rather longer comments:

First, why are the threats of murder and kidnapping being made? What is the genesis of it all? If you remove peaceful methods of change from the agenda, what methods are left?

Moreover, how was it that Frank came to power in the first place? When he ordered soldiers with guns into Government offices, were those guns loaded with flowers or candy? If the officials concerned had refused to obey the orders of the soldiers, what would have happened to them?

So what has been sowed, and what is being reaped, in this context?

Secondly, do you see any sustainable way that the support of Fijians is being won?

From where I stand, any support the regime is getting is based almost completely on the PER and the manipulative abuse of the levers of Government power, or supposedly independent bodies like judiciary, the DPP and FICAC.

That means that as soon as Fiji returns to s democratic set-up where people can be freely lobbied, and can decide their own priorities and opinions, then the Regime's agenda will automatically lose the major basis for any support it might have had.

So the only way for them to ensure their agenda in the long term would be to again overthrow democracy and re-impose dictatorial rule and the PER.

From this you can see that any purported connection between the present Charter routeway and the destination is more than likely a mirage, for the simple reason that there is no viable way of getting off the self-fulfilling routeway.

Finally, I hardly need point out that Regime does have all the time in the world to extract itself from this dilemma. Because its forlorn "passing the hat around" for support being played out against a backdrop of a thus-far unyielding shrink of the Fiji economy. All it takes these days is one natural disaster, and Fiji loses whatever tenuous growth potential it may have been looking forward to for that calendar year.

This economic malaise is unlikely to halt or reverse without a large dose of the kind of institutional, economic and political orthodoxy that the Regime has thus far eschewed in favour of maintaining its 100% grip on power.

As things stand therefore, the assumption of any ultimate arrival at the Charter destination or even any of its "pillars", is best summed up by the American saying "You can't get there from here!"

Puzzled.
Peace said…
@Puzzled - great write-up all around.

@ Croz - You point out anonymous threats by certain blogs of kidnapping and personal harm and assume that all opposition of Fiji's current rulers support this. You are sadly mistaken. Despite the fact that violence, assault (physical, sexual, mental etc), threats to family members etc used by the military to silence opposition, many critics in Fiji do not wish to reciprocate this. Those that do, like the blogs you point out, are surely a minority. Most ordinary folks i speak to back home say all they want is an end to this sorry state of affairs in Fiji.

Let the record show that the 'threat of violence' that you love alluding to in your unyielding support for the military regime and its tactics, was started by the military themselves. It went to a new low when women were also subjected to physical, mental and sexual abuse which occured at the military camp.

The people of Fiji so far must be applauded for their Gandhi-like tolerance of such violence.
Gandhi? Give me a break said…
Oh, so now the anti-regime forces in Fiji are behaving like Gandhiji. What unadulterated rot. Not long ago, the more vociferous anti-Bainimarama stalwarts were castigating the population for not having the guts to mount an uprising. Now, we've got a 360 degree turn and they're being commended for their passive resistance. The truth is the regime is under no significant internal or external pressure whatsoever As its response to Cyclone Tomas shows, it is a functioning, efficient government and Bainimarama is leading by example. Australia and NZ have toned down their criticism and there are even signs of significant accommodation. Take a look at the website for Fiji's permanent mission to the UN. There's one of Bainimarama's ministers, Dr Jiko Luveni, beaming at the camera with Australia's UN representative at an Australian reception in New York. It's all over. You'll get your democracy in 2014 and nothing you do in the meantime means a jot.
Anonymous said…
Croz

Rumor has it that one of the authors of FijiToday has been beaten up and the others have been threatened with violence to their families if the continue blogging. They were apparently pinged when they allowed friends to use their satelite phone to help locate relatives during Thomas. Do you know anythink about this?
Anonymous said…
Gandhi?

We are not talking here about the chances of the Fiji regime's survival. The regimes Burma and Zimbabwe are still surviving in far worse economic circumstances than Fiji.

What we are asking if for Croz to give some credible scenario where a majority of the Charter pillars, or anything else worthwhile, might realistically be expected to emerge from the current political and economic morass.

In an environment of alternating economic stagnation and contraction, this gets less likely as time goes on, not more likely as Croz appears to assume.
fletchcastle said…
dear everyone,

when i clicked on the link to read Mr. Wadan's second paper i was given a virus,,please take care,,
muchos besos from mexico

fletchcastle
Mexican wave said…
I get a virus every time I'm exposed to Warden Narsey too. Wish he'd keep his virulent ideas to himself.
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