(O+) Media Tussle, Some Recent Cabinet Decisions, Corruption, Volunteers
GOVERNMENT AND THE MEDIA
Photo Fiji Times, (l-r) Anne Fussell, police spokesman Ema Mua and lawyer Richard Naidu 11 April 2009.
Yesterday's reported tussle between Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Fiji Times publisher and managing director Australian Anne Fussell prior to the Media Decree consultations should be read at two levels, for what was said and for what was inferred. The tussle was reported in full and uncensored by the Times.
Level one: Fussell thought more time was needed to study the decree draft before consultations commenced. Two and one-half hours is too short. I agree. But why, in reporting the tussle, did the Times not include the AG's statement that last week's advertisement contained the bulk of the decree? Not quite the same things but participants will have had far longer than 2 1/2 hours to consider the main items.
Still on level one, I also agree with Fussell that her remarks on the economy were not explicitly positive or negative, but why express this implied concern now when the whole anti-government stance of the Times since December 2006 has acted to deter investment. Sayed-Khaiyum is correct in saying "The Fiji Times is the purveyor of negativity as far as Fiji has been concerned at least for the past three years."
Level two reveals what they were really saying.
Sayed-Khaiyum: "This is the media organisation that does not recognise the government, that does not call the Prime Minister the Prime Minister, that does not recognize various other members of the government..."
Fussell: "The Fiji Times [is] 100 percent pro-Fiji and ... completely behind the economic and financial development of Fiji's people." She then went on to say her paper was "completely in favour of anything that allows the people of Fiji to have access to all the information they require to make decisions concerning their future". [my emphasis. ]
This is a fair enough swipe at government censorship but it ignores the fact that what it published before censorship was imposed was decidedly anti-government, and what it has published since has deliberately, in protest, made almost no mention of anything the government has been doing. In other words, before the censorship, mainly negative reporting, and since, virtually no reporting on any government activity. They have not lived up to their claim on allowing the people access to all the information required to make decisions on their future. Their position is unchanged. The Fiji Times sidesteps its non-recognition of government by reference to the people. What purpose is served therefore in its participation in government consultations?
I see no easy way out of this impasse. Backed by Rupert Murdoch money, Fussell, Editor-in-Chief Netani Rika and the Times can ride out falling circulation numbers, and government will not relent until the Times ceases to be so blatantly anti-government. On only one thing can we be sure: having insisted on Fiji Times participation, the anti-government blogs and mainstream media will dismiss the consultations as a farce. Whatever it does, government is damned if it does not and damned if it does.
Pacific Islands News Association V-P John Woods, who also edits the Cook Islands News, has called for PINA to relocate from Suva and for more transparency in the administration and finances of the organization. "I'm so frustrated by the inaction and inefficiency of our organisation, and I mean at the administrative level and from the president down." he said.
Funded mainly by Ausaid and other agencies, Woods complained he has seen no financial reports for over a year. He thinks the Suva location, and "kowtowing" to censorship, is preventing the association from doing its job. PINA has rejected repeated calls for it, and the wire service, to relocate. President Moses Stephens could not be contacted for a response.
The Child Welfare Decree 2010, endorsed by Cabinet for approval by the President, makes mandatory the reporting by all health authorities of child abuse cases to the appropriate authorities. Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma said current legislation lacks this requirement. Failure to report cases will be a breach of professional conduct and an offence under the Decree.
FEA restructuring. Cabinet has announced an independent adviser is to be appointed to advise government on restructuring FEA. The move, aimed at better and more affordable services, is likely to see some private sector involvement in electricity provision.
Council of Sugar Cane Growers. Cabinet has approved the establishment of an appointed 11-member CSGC comprising eight grower and three government rperesentatives.
Counter Terrorism legislation. Cabinet has also endorsed the urgent need to have a Counter Terrorism Legislation to protect Fiji’s interest from both internal and external threats. The decision recognizes the need for a 'total and whole government integrated approach' to be able to respond to any threat. Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, said it is a UN requirement under the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy that countries have a Counter Terrorism Legislation.
EU Centre to be based in Suva. Cabinet has also approved the request from Brussels to establish the Centre for the Development of Enterprises (CDE) Pacific Regional Office in Suva. Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Civil Aviation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, said that the CDE is an ACP-EU joint institution created under the framework of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and is funded under the European Development Fund (EDF). The Centre will facilitate ACP-EU business partnerships, and support services, assist technology transfer and management skills.
*****Alleged price-fixing and anti-competitive practices in the hardware industry are being investigated by the Commerce Commission. Chairman Dr Mahendra Reddy said the commission has written to the hardware outlets informing them of the investigation, the process involved, the data required, the timeline of the investigation and the powers of the commission.
The National Volunteer Centre, established last December, is calling on people in the North to volunteer in an effort to help Northern farmers. Project officer Neil Maharaj says volunteers will follow up needs assessment, relief distributions, and emergency social services started by government and other agencies. The Centre has 350 registered members in the Central and Western Divisions. Recruitment in the North follows the damage incurred by Cyclone Tomas.