(o-) Open Letter to Police Commissioner Esala Teleni

Dear Commissioner,

I am informed the censors have again instructed at least two internet service providers (ISPs) , Kidanet and Connect, to block Fiji users access to blog sites, or face the risk of being closed down.

My informant writes:"Kidanet is blocking you – Connect isn’t. But then again, Connect are blocking sites that Kidanet are not. The end result is that between them they are blocking a fair swag of sites. I'm totally fed up with the hamfisted blocking of websites (including yours, by Kidanet) by both Connect and Kidanet. I have been told on good authority that Police Commissioner Teleni has threatened to rescind their licences if they don't block the sites."

Commissioner, we have not met and you will probably take no notice of my advice, but for what it's worth I think  blocking  blogs is mistaken on three grounds.

First, it alienates moderate opinion, in Fiji and overseas. As Fiji moves towards 2014, Government will increasingly need the support of these people to win more "hearts and minds."

Secondly, it is indiscriminate, blocking both friendly and hostile blogs. In writing on media censorship, I suggested a yellow and red card penalty system rather than have censors sitting in newsrooms. This system would not work for blogs but as a friendly blogger I think government has more to gain by allowing open access than by "killing" both friends and enemies.  

Thirdly, blocking is ineffective. It will not work. Blocking is only an irritant and delaying mechanism.  There are just too many means around the blocks. Your only way is to close ALL internet access in Fiji.

If you do not know already, let me show you how it's done. Would-be blog readers can access any blogsite by using a proxy server in one of three ways :

(1) Using translation websites, of which there are many hundreds, to disguise the blog address they wish to visit;
(2 Using  an URL redirection services, of which there are more hundreds, with even more coming on line daily; or 
(3) Using any internet search engine to direct them to an infinite number of proxy web sites.
And readers who have already "subscribed" to a blog, for example with Google or Atom or Technoti,  automatically receive posts and comments, despite  blockages.

Commissioner, I too am appalled by the hate and venom of most anti-government blogs but they are mainly read by those who will opposite your government whatever it does. These blogs sometimes have the opposite effect to what they intend. I know of people so disgusted with what they have read that they have become more sympathic to government.

Then there are two popular anti-government blogs that are usually more even-handed. They agree with much of what government intends but are opposed to censorship and want a speedy return to elections.

And then there are a few blogs like mine that could be labelled critically supportive. They are sympathetic to what government says it wishes to achieve; they are aware of the need for PER and some media censorship, but they are also critical -- like now -- when they think government actions unwise or wrong.

I respectfully ask you to reconsider the decision to block blogs, for the reasons given.

Croz Walsh

To Readers
To ensure future access to this blog, I urge you (1) to link to automatic postings through Google or some other browser. Click on "subscribe" in the left column;  (2) Copy the links below for use if the blog is blocked again, and (3) familiarise yourselves with more sites by writing "How to unblock websites" in Google search.



More tilting at windwills said…
Croz, you really are wasting your time. Teleni is a real dolt and has no idea of the principles to which you refer. His failure to grasp the importance of a secular state in Fiji as opposed to the New Methodist agenda he wants to foist on the nation should really be enough to persuade you of the futility of your appeal. But good luck anyway. The only real way to breathe sense into the regime is through the PM or the AG. And even that isn't a sure fire process. No, the more time goes by the more I'm convinced that no reform is possible outside the narrow confines of the military's council's thinking. Its attitude is ultimately prescriptive and unsophisticated, more suitable for running a military campaign than running a nation. Some day, you will have to confront the same uncomfortable realisation. But I admire your persistence.
Anonymous said…
Good post, Croz

I too am not too pleased about slow, malfunctioning blogs, and now that I've read your post, can understand why I've been having problems.

The extraodinary thing is that the blocking seems to be indiscriminate, as all kinds of sites that have not the faintest relationship with Fiji are apparently blocked. I assume a constant, "Oops. This link appears broken" error message means the site is blocked.

I really think the regime should follow your advice, as to continue will ensure an opposite reaction to the intended result.

Proud Fijian said…
Croz ditto.

The problem with the ani-IG blogs is the articles they release. They are so misleading and twist the truth to further their interests.

However, your blogs reveals the truth and dissects those blogs and reveals them for what they really are.

It is then important for the IG not to ban blogs cause yours quickly nullify any attcks made which is frustrating the Anti-IG bloggers.
Nive said…
To Dr Walsh
To understand why the blogs are blocked in Fiji you have to understand the damage Fiji Times caused the FLP govt in 2000 with lies and negative reporting, in the eyes of the ordinary Fijian. (Article in the FLP web-site. Or just ask Chaudhury). It seems then fair to say the ordinary Fijian is not sophisticated and able to remove truth from fiction when it comes to "news", be it just gossip and innuendo from blogs. They are easily swayed by sensational stories.
While I understand the reason for the IG blocking the websites, I agree with you that letting the bloggers do what they want to do really brings out the truth about them. I for one occassionally read the rubbish blog-sites. It reaffirms my belief that the IG is doing the right things, and that it is only scoundrels who don't support the IG.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Nive, I understand why and know of the Fiji Times record. But the blocking is indiscriminate, the "ordinary" Fijian will be fed "news" government opponents want them to hear blogs or no blogs, and blocking only delays access. It does not stop it.

On balance, it's probably better to leave blogs unblocked. At least then some of what is published on this blog may be heard on the coconut wireless. Blocking is defensive. A better strategy is to go on the offensive by attacking the lies and misrepresentations. The Rinakama case, for example, should not have been allowed to fester as it did.
fletchcastle said…
cant u just go into Google or Yahoo to find the blogs??
Nive said…
To Walsh
The Rinakama case is a good example. You too were wondering, on your blog, what was happening for the first few days. That is unhelpful, and very dangerous. The public could have started a protest in the streets thinking that the army were doing something very bad to Rinakama. That is the sort of reaction no govt wants from its citizens and that is why the PER is justified. You may have good intentions toward the IG but your actions can have a varied reaction from the public.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Fletchcastle. No. At least not directly. You'd need to use them as proxy servers. Any web address which starts with blogspot or wordpress, etc. can be blocked.

@Nive. Surely, Government could have prevented the speculation by stating Rinakama had been released. There were two statements on 22 March, one saying he was released, the other (by Teleni) saying he was still in custody. And then nothing.

If you think I should not publish such concerns, you mistake the purposes of this blog. Despite what anti- government people say, I am not a coup apologist. I lean towards the IG and fully support what it says it is trying to do, but there are times when Government seems to be straying from its stated path, other times when its actions (or inactions) seem misguided, and other times when I think it needs far better PR.

Many people and groups in Fiji well disposed towards Government were concerned about Rinakama. I chose to publish this concern. A clear statement of 22 March would have made it unnecessary.
Nive said…
To Walsh
You certainly should raise your concerns as you see fit. I do the same, directly to the govt feedback website, though. Saying things out in public is the problem here. The govt has to maintain law and order in the country. Your comments on your blog could incite the public.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Nive, Thanks for this. I check the govt website regularly buthaven't see any access feedback. How do I find it?
Nive said…
Come on Walsh, you're having me on.
Go to the www.fiji.gov.fj website, and hit "contact us". There are e-mail, phone and fax details as well. What more do you want?
Your concern I feel should have been directed at Leweni at Ministry of Information, rather than the Police Commissioner.

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