(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.
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.
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.