Media Censorship and the Roadmap

Opinion -- Crosbie Walsh

“In fact the transformation is almost total,
it’s almost like a revolution. -- Steve Ratuva.

The Fiji Times Deputy Editor, Sophie Foster's recent address at the World Press Freedom Day Conference held at the University of Queensland contained no surprises.  Of course, a 100% of journalists or their colleagues experienced censorship last year. Of course, censorship is a crude, blunt instrument that should not be tolerated under normal conditions.

Sophie's courageous  paper brought no new insights into these matters, but it was illuminating to learn what Fijian journalists thought they could (and could not) report, and it raised the all-important question of how long censorship can be maintained without seriously undermining Fiji's capacity for democracy -- and with it, Government's  Roadmap intended to lead to a better, fairer Fiji for all citizens.  Without media co-operation, it could be a never-ending road.

The need for censorship following the Appeals Court ruling and Abrogation of the Constitution last year is not disputed. Without it, there is little doubt The Fiji Times for one would have published articles that, used by disgruntled politicians, churchmen and extreme nationalist elements, would have stoked the fires of unrest that could so easily have destabilised the county and jeopardised effective Government. It is not censorship as such, but its extent and application that raises concerns for the future.

Thinking people enjoy reading and listening to things they can think about. Unfortunately, as a result of censorship, much of what passes for news in Fiji today is so bland, mundane and repetitive that it can only be "absorbed" -- without thought.

It's great to know that vanua are apologizing for not supporting the People's Charter; that more effort is being made to increase milk, honey and food production; and that more is being done about poverty. These things were previously under-reported by a media that preferred more sensational, adversarial news.

Reporting the "mundane," of course, must continue -- most government actions, by definition, are normally mundane -- but articles are also needed which make people ask why exactly people were opposed to the Charter; why they have now changed their minds; why primary production is so low, and why people are poor and have such difficulty pulling themselves out of poverty.  People who have answers and different views on these, and other such, questions need to be interviewed by journalists or invited to write special features.  But -- and here's the catch -- they will only do so in a freer media environment.

Government assures us that once the Media Decree is in place (see link to assessment of the Decree), the Public Emergency Regulations under which the censors work, will be lifted. The Decree is intended to ensure a balance between media freedom and media responsibility, and it establishes mechanisms to ensure this is so. But, with freedom and responsibility meaning different things to different people, two safeguards are essential: 

First, very wise heads must be appointed to the Media Industry Development Authority and the Media Tribunal. It will not do if  appointees are seen to be mere mouthpieces of this or any other  Government. They must represent a credible, wide cross-section of intelligent, informed and responsible opinion. And mechanisms within the Decree must ensure the appointment of such people.

Secondly,  unsatisfied appeals from the Tribunal must be heard by an independent judiciary.

Without these safeguards, there is a very real danger that the Decree could be abused by a "bad" government.  It is hoped changes to the draft will take these concerns into account.   

Journalists practise self-censorship in whatever country they work. They know what their employers, advertisers and public want and do not want, and, despite protests to the contrary, I have no doubt this often involves political issues. But in most Western countries the media is also a vehicle by which, within limits, journalists and ordinary citizens can comment and criticize government proposals and actions. Governments are alert to this information and it influences their judgements.

Fiji is not a Western country and it is presumptuous of Western critics to assume it needs a "fit-all" journalism.  Fiji needs a media tailored to its needs, one that assumes a more moral and civic role, places more emphasis on nation-building, is not too adversarial, and actively seeks to heal the divisive wounds of the past.  It also needs a media that plays a more educational role than in the West.

Government needs the support of the media so that its citizens can have access to information that will assist them to think about governance and political issues and fully participate in Government plans for the future. Because if they do not, the public will not "internalize" the changes proposed and made, and, post 2014 or a little later, all of Government's good intentions could "come tumbling down."

 For any government, but especially a military-led government with relatively little civilian involvement, the media has a vital role to play. To this end, Government should think very carefully about MIDA and Media Tribunal appointments.

Meanwhile, Sharon Smith-Johns' department-based media liaison officers should help to improve the dissemination of government information. Further down the road, Government needs its own Media Agency whose sole role would be to present Government views to the local and overseas public. Then, with the privately-owned media's near monopoly on how government news should be presented at an end, the  media would be free, within agreed acceptable limits, to decide its own coverage and interpretations. Media freedom of a sort suited to Fiji would be assured.  The West may not like this, but it is a realistic scenario. The West is not Fiji. Photo:

Related postings
  • Croz Walsh Assessment of the Media Decree: Ten Serious Concerns.
  • Croz Walsh on Sophie and the Roadmap. Yesterday's posting.
  • David Robie calls for stronger voice against censorship.
  • David Robie Fiji Censorhip by 'Legal Camouflage.'  David makes claims  about Jim Anthony's contribution to the Media Decree and unfair action against the Fiji Times which I believe to be incorrect. I take up this important but relatively minor issue in "David, James and Netani", below (and David replies).
  • David Robie with examples from the Speight Coup years and warnings today.
  • Francis Herman warnings on Fiji Media Decree.
  • John Woods on PINA and President Moses Steven criticized again for saying Pacific media should become a partner with national governments, which others took to mean it should forego its watchdog role .
  • Pat Craddock's Open Letter to the PM. Scroll down to download "Pat Craddock Media Decree.pdf"
  • Peter Lomas, Fiji Sun Editor, notes the one-sided selection of speakers at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day meeting in Brisbane.
  • Savea Sano Malifa. Media not free in Samoa 
  • Shailendra Singh. USP Journalism lecturer's negatives about the Decree.
  • Thakur Ranjit Singh, a personal history of media freedom in Fiji. When did we have it last?

David, James and Netani

David Robie is probably the most honest, independent, experienced and unbiased Pacific journalist around and he has very serious concerns about the draft Media Decree as his article Fiji Censorship by 'Legal Camouflage' (see link above) indicates. I agree with most of what David has written but I think two corrections are needed to this article, if only for historical reasons. 
On James Anthony
First, he attributes much of the Media Decree's provisions to the implausible Dr James Anthony, an Indo-Fijian one-time trade unionist in Fiji and now an academic in Hawai'i. I've known of Anthony's work for many years and share David's amazement that he was appointed by the Fiji Human Rights Commission to prepare a report reviewing the Fiji media. Quite frankly, I would not hire him for any work I wished to be considered credible. He is a man of fixed prejudices whose personal anger against “the White Man” too often clouds his everyday judgment. Predictably his 161-page report, Freedom and independence of the media in Fiji, contained provisions to remove White expatriate influence in Fiji media.

But David is incorrect in stating that Anthony's “recommendations were adopted as the basis of a draconian draft decree.” In fact, Antony's imput in the Decree was minimal, and mainly concerned recommendations for the training and pay for journalists. The Decree was drafted by a consultant in Hong Kong and is based on the Singapore and Australian models. It departs substantially from Anthony's report in that he recommended a far more independent structure for media accountability with complaints against the media.

David could also have mentioned that Fiji is not alone in having “radical curb(s) on foreign ownership, wide powers of search and seizure and harsh penalties for media groups and journalists.” Not too dissimilar laws exist, even if they may not be frequently used, in democratic countries such as the US and Australia. 

On The Fiji Times and Netani Rika
Secondly, in discussing what some have called vindictive Decree provisions “aimed at crippling the Fiji Times,” David writes about “trumped up grounds” for the deportation of Fiji Times expatriate staff” before going on to write: “The High Court also imposed a hefty F$100,000 fine against the Fiji Times in early 2009 for publishing an online letter criticising the court for upholding the legality of the 2006 coup.”

The latter accusation refers to contempt proceedings against the Times and editor Netani Rika for publishing a letter that David said merely criticized a court judgment which should not – and would not – have been seen as contempt had that been all that was written. In fact, the letter did far more than this. It alleged that the judges who arrived at the decision were “corrupt and biased.” And this, in most countries, would be considered a clear case of contempt. David also failed to mention that the Fiji Times had for several months been conducting what call only be called a campaign against the judiciary, and that the Times and Netani pleaded guilty to the contempt charge. So, in this particular case, to suggest that the court proceedings were an attack on media freedom is also to suggest that the media should be above the law, which I'm sure was not David's intention.

There are sound reasons to express concern about the draft Decree but Anthony's supposed involvement and the court judgement are not two of them.  I send David an advance copy of this posting ...

... To Which David Replied
Hi Croz,
I find this piece an example of the bias that you hold against media generally and that you accuse me of here. You make no mention of the fact that I have written extensive criticisms of some Fiji news media conduct over the years. For example, there was an extensive analysis of the Fiji media review process in the last edition of PJR "Behind the Fiji censorship", 15(2), pp.85-116, leading up to the decree. I am under no illusions about the FT and never have been.
There is little appreciation shown here of how media work. I was commissioned to write 700 words for this publication targeted for journalists whose primary concern is defence of media freedom. As it was, I wrote a longer article and parts were pruned to fit the space. In such a tight word count, there were major limitations on what I could write (common in media environments). But overall, I am satisfied with what was published.
I never suggested that Anthony was responsible for the actual draft legislation, but rather he was an inspiration for it and he played into the regime's hands. His key elements - the media Development Authority and Media Tribunal - were integral concepts. In fact, earlier forms of such a law were being toyed with by the Qarase government - and other versions have been floated in Papua New Guinea, for example (notably the Ramoi Tribunal Bill). Anthony has had the last laugh.
I believe strongly that self-regulation is the only way for a healthy media in any country resembling a democracy. The fact that some media in Fiji have failed in their responsibilities is no justification for such a draconian decree, nor is the fact that some other jurisdictions use such punitive powers. It concerns me greatly that you appear to believe that a decree such as this is "necessary", albeit with reluctance.
Go ahead with whatever you are publishing, but expect a very strong riposte from me.


Gentlemen, please said…
Croz, once again, you've produced a very considered and thoughtful treatise. But I'm afraid I have to agree with David Robie that you are defending the indefensible in lending any credence whatsoever to the regime's treatment of the media in Fiji. Once implemented, the provisions of the draft media decree won't easily be rolled back. You concede yourself that a "bad" government might abuse its provisions, with the clear implication that this government isn't "bad". Well, it may not be racist or corrupt but Bainimarama has shown the intolerance of all dictators for free expression. And that is bad as far as I'm concerned. As David Robie rightly points out, he is no apologist for sections of the Fiji media and has been publicly critical of some of its failings. But I think his position is basically that on this issue, we don't need to throw the baby out with the bath water. In other words, the entire media in Fiji doesn't deserve to be targeted by a draconian law just because the Fiji Times, for instance, has overstepped the mark. What's worrying for me is that Bainimarama and the AG tell everyone they meet that the media decree wouldn't be necessary but for the behaviour of the Fiji Times. So one misguided, crusading editor in Netani Rika - backed up by a disengaged management only intent on making money - single handedly demolishes a hitherto free and vibrant media and condemns an entire country to a future of repressive censorship. At best, you could describe it as overkill, at worst, a convenient opportunity for the powers that be in Fiji to stifle free expression and avoid any real media scrutiny of government, now and into the future. It's deeply worrying that it ever got to this in the first place. And I think the blame rests with both sides. News Limited, as the Fiji Times proprietor, should have reminded Netani Rika that restraint is necessary in a country like Fiji and should certainly have done a lot more to curb his partisan outbursts and tendency to get his facts wrong. In turn, government should have engaged News Limited management in Sydney to explain its concerns and try to get Netani Rika managed better internally. Certainly, a little bit more emphasis on persuasion might have averted the spectre now before us of the big stick for all media and the possible closure of a 140-year national institution. David Robie is right to say that "self regulation is the only way for a healthy media in any country resembling a democracy". You, on the other hand, are right to point out that self regulation in this instance has failed. So I do hope that you can both develop a mutually satisfactory consensus for a way forward that does justice to all us media consumers in Fiji. It's painful enough that the freedoms we've always enjoyed are to be curtailed because of the irresponsible behaviour of a few. But I think many will share my view that it would also be painful to witness a public brawl between two of the overseas commentators we most respect because of their sensible approach to Fiji. The tone of this exchange of correspondence between the two of you isn't good. Surely you guys are smart enough to thrash out a common approach on this issue? I appeal to you both to do so and come up with a common intellectual position that comes down firmly on the side of those of us who don't want any erosion of our right to free speech in Fiji. The clock is ticking and soon it will be too late. Vinaka.
Dr Mark Hayes said…
I will analyze more details of this generally useful Post in due course, and thank you for the many Links to other sources and views too.

However, there is a fundamental, even a category, flaw in all your arguments here, and elsewhere: The regime currently dominating Fiji is illegal, wholly illegitimate by reference to constitutional and democratic 'heads of powers', and finally rules because it can, at need, send the military in to deal with dissent, even loyal dissent.

You wrote early in your analysis: "The need for censorship following the Appeals Court ruling and Abrogation of the Constitution last year is not disputed."

The need for censorship is vigorously disputed.

There was absolutely no need to abrogate the Constitution and resort to military rule after Easter Thursday, 2009, and the Appeals Court ruling. The Court was very clear in its judgment (though, admittedly, they could have helped with clauses to the effect that the interim government should return Fiji to democratic rule as soon as practicable, following the judgment in the 2001 Prasad case). We can debate issues to do with alleged flaws in the 1997 Constitution (ethically loaded voting, and so on) elsewhere.

I would rather agree with A/Prof David Robie's position (with some minor reservations at minor points, to be sure), but I wholeheartedly support Fiji's journalists, several of whom I know very well and hold in the highest professional regard, enduring what is a wholly unnecessary, and, in practice, arbitrary, sometimes vindictive, censorship regime backed by the constant threat of military harassment, outlet closure, and if the obscene 'media decree' is imposed - it isn't a Law or anything remotely like a law - fearsome fines and potential imprisonment.

More when I have considered the rest of your Post on the Fiji media.
James Anthony's last laugh said…
Croz, of course James Anthony has had the last laugh. It's self evident if you look at the way things have developed. In his report for the Human Rights Commission, Anthony caused a furore with his comments about white men controlling the media in Fiji. Roll forward and those white men are gone, the inevitable consequence of the draft media decree if News Limited has to divest itself of 90 per cent of the Fiji Times. And let's just look at some of the personalities involved here. I hate to indulge in any form of racial or religious stereotyping. But I don't think there's any doubt that a Muslim clique is providing the Bainimarama regime with much of its intellectual firepower. It was a Muslim, Shaista Shameem who, as head of the Human Rights Commission, commissioned James Anthony to carrying out his review in the first place. Shaista's sister, the former judge Nazhat, has taken on the job of explaining the provisions of the draft media decree to a bewildered media at workshops around the country. And above them is the architect of the draft media legislation, another Muslim, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed -Khaiyum. Can anyone who knows the close personal and professional links between these people possibly doubt the direct correlation between the original Anthony report for Shameen and what appears in the draft media decree? It may have been drafted in Hong Kong but I'll wager the intellectual germ originates from James Anthony's padded exile in Hawaii. And never mind just these three. Aiyaz's brother, Riaz, heads the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, which is about to expand into television. This will make him the most powerful media figure in Fiji. Riyaz is on the record as accepting all of the provisions of the draft media decree except the one relating to the punishment of individual journalists. So you can be sure that will eventually be excised but maybe only that. And then, of course, there's the most influential Indo-Fijian in the military - also Muslim - Colonel Aziz Mohammed. As a member of the Military Council running the country with an iron fist, he'd hardly be an advocate of a free media. Muslims make up just seven per cent of the population in Fiji yet are disproportionally represented in the upper echelons of the new order. If that's not a Muslim clique, I don't know what is. And they certainly don't appear to be the most vociferous defenders of a free media.
MJ said…
Well done Croz. Excellent review and ideas as usual. I have not commented for a while, but have been following all your posts. I have not felt the need to comment lately as yourself and others who have commented have summed up my thoughts better than I can. This must take a tremendous amount of time and effort and is much appreciated.

To Gentlemen, please …. You appear to be attacking Croz for supporting the governments media decree. Are we reading the same article? Croz does not support the governments current draft media decree at all. He acknowledges the need for “a media decree” in Fiji to help the nation to grow, but apposes several parts of the current draft decree and wants them to be changed.

To Mark, WAKE UP, whether you think it illegal or not, the Qarase government is gone, the 1997 constitution has been abrogated and the current government is now making the rules. This is the reality and it has been made clear it will not change. If you wish to make a useful contribution on this blog you should “get over it” and comment on how Fiji can move forward and improve from here. By bringing this up it is obvious your views are tainted and anything the current government does you will argue against just on principle. Therefore your views on any subject here become irrelevant, to me anyway.
Dr Mark Hayes said…
Apologies, folks... In my earlier Comment I used the word 'ethically' when I meant 'ethnically' in the context of Fiji's electoral laws and procedures. Hope my intended meaning is clear, though.
Doctor Nothing Doing said…
Mark Hayes, I've scanned your missive a couple of times to see if there's anything new here that contributes to the debate. Yes, we already know you are opposed to censorship of any sort. And we know you regard the regime as "illegal". We also know of your solidarity with working journalists in Fiji. Is that it? When it comes to food for thought, your offering is as pauce as an African famine.
The perils of journalism school said…
Yeah, Mark Hayes, don't rush back into print if you've got nothing new to say. I think a strong argument can be made that academic teachers of journalism like you are partly responsible for the present crisis. Schooled in the inviolable notion of academic freedom in a western context, you've also encouraged a western notion of unbridled media freedom among your third world students. Now, some of them a finding out the hard way that it might have been better to go to journalism school in somewhere like Singapore than your precious University of Queensland. Standing shoulder to shoulder with your former students now might make you feel better about the genie you've unleashed. But it's ultimately poor bastards like us - hapless media consumers - who suffer because you spent more time preaching about freedom than you did about the need for responsibility in developing, multiracial societies like Fiji.
We need a coup every 2nd Thursday said…
For once as an unapologetic coup apologist you are right when you say the 'west is not Fiji'. And increasingly Fiji is not the west - it is becoming more like some of the worst tyranical anti democratic repressive regimes of the middle east - the Pacific iran.
elections (if they ever happen) will be a waste of time with the military 'controlling' any puppet government. The Fiji media is now so bland and meaningless it might as well just close down.
Leave the dictatorship and unelected junta alone to ruin (sorry) run the country as a case study for the world to see just how hopeless military juntas are!
cafĂ© pacific said…
In reply to "Gentlemen please" who expressed concern over the "tone" of the discussion, I would like to make it clear that Croz and I remain on good terms. I respect his independence and right to differ. The introduction of his blog has contributed enormously to free debate and discussion about Fiji affairs and has provided a space for perspectives that were previously marginalised by the narrow focus and self-interested mainstream media. Thanks for this Croz. However, I still maintain that the Anthony fiasco set the wrong tone for media reform in Fiji, whatever the detail of the bill drafting. The Fiji news media had a chance to be proactive and get their own self-regulatory house in order with an independent Fiji Media Council review. But they failed by leaving this initiative far too late. The Herman review in February 2009 was very constructive and formulated some useful ideas, but it was already almost three years too late to have any serious impact on regime policy.

David Robie
Cafe Pacific
sara'ssista said…
i am always interested in the comment 'get over it'....perhaps just like a rape victim....invite the rapist over for dinner and see his point of view. And if he doesn't like what you have to say...he can have another go without consequence...perhaps give himself immunity and invite you to a 'road map to the future'...and then criticise your lack of involvement or criticism...shame on you for harping and whining about human rights and requiring the rule of law and parliamentary democracy...'just get over it'
Hack love-in said…
Why was Sophie Foster's paper at UQ "courageous", Croz? It was just more of the same twaddle she and Netani Rika have been spruiking for the past few years at regional gabfests of third rate, third world hacks. The deeply attractive but deeply self absorbed Ms Foster might have been more courageous if she'd acknowledged the role of her own paper in the disaster that confronts media consumers in Fiji. When you don't clean up your own house, somebody does it for you, not that it'll damage the careers of Rika and Foster. You can bet that News Limited will reward them for their "courage" by finding them nice sinecures in Australia. With their arrogance and pomposity, these hacks evidently see themselves as South Seas versions of South Africa's Donald Wood, the exiled crusading editor of the apartheid era. Whereas the truth is they're turgid mediocrities consumed with their own self importance at the expense of their readers. No doubt the great "doctor" of journalism, Mark Hayes, was on hand at UQ to congratulate Sophie for her courage. They deserve each other.
Islamic division said…
Oi, James Anthony's last laugh, your identification of a "Muslim clique" behind the regime might suggest that all Muslims support the new order. But I think the community is pretty split on this one. One of the regime's most vociferous criticis, Imrana Jalal, also happens to be a Muslim. I know of others who certainly don't approve of what's happened, even if they support the idea of a multiracial, non racist Fiji.
Dr Mark Hayes said…
I have to split this comment into two parts :( Please read both parts.

It doesn't help anybody's cause, or argument, to deploy the ad hominem fallacy. Indeed, abusing one's opponents personally demonstrates a failure to seriously either understand the opposing argument, or an obdurate refusal to even consider, let alone engage with, an opposing argument. As several commentators, earlier in this thread, have sought to do.

And deploying variations of even the regime's feeble excuse - "Oh, they don't understand what's happening in Fiji, how can they understand what's happening in Fiji" - also doesn't work because there are many highly informed, and sympathetic (at least to the Fiji people) observers, who really do understand Fiji in all its complexities.

I agree with A/Prof Robie's points WRT the manifold failures of the Fiji Media Council, and, like him, I very well understand the complex reasons why and how this occurred, which also speak to many issues with the performance of the Fiji media over many years. But by no means do I agree with several lines of criticism of, often personally directed, the Fiji media, or specific outlets, which, on my reading simply resolve into pay back for real or imagined slights or debatable lines of reportage - neither right nor wrong at the time, just debatable - or commentary, or, perhaps, even earlier management decisions regarding hirings and firings, or to spike or run somebody's opinion pieces.

I also agree with Adj-Prof Walsh when he warns that the Fiji regime is doing itself, and much more importantly, its stated cause - the complete re-working of the Fiji psyche (People's Charter, Roadmap, eradication of explicit and dog whistle ethno-nationalism in Fiji politics and affairs, and so on) - no good at all with its rigorous, and, in practice, often arbitrary, inconsistent, and periodically purely vindictive media and Internet censorship.

End of Part One...
Dr Mark Hayes said…
Part Two...

From a point of view highly informed by a sound working knowledge of very good media effects research, which also highly informs advertising design and deployment, the crudely simplistic 'theory' which seems to be informing the regime's media 'policies' clearly simply won't have its intended effect. It's rather analogous to keeping a lid on a pressure cooker even as the soup bubbles and some oozes out to sizzle on the stove. Keep the lid ever more desperately on the ever more sizzling pot and basic physics points to an explosive disaster sooner rather than later.

What all informed Fiji observers not infected with the regime's Group Think, or desperately struggling to excuse its existence or failings, are deeply worried about is the fact that, despite the Roadmap and the 2014 promised elections, about which there remain decisive unanswered questions as to process, procedure and above all, legitimacy, there is no sustainable endgame even remotely on the horizon.

A close and informed reading of even Dr Walsh's analysis of the last Fiji census, and the country's significantly changing demographics, does not auger well for the sustainable outcome of any future election, as even Commodore Bainimarama, in rather ill-considered reported remarks earlier in 2010, has opined.

If, as Dr Walsh warns, in his text and his cartoon, the regime is gravely handicapping itself with the censorship exercise, then we have to ask why they're keeping it in place, dragging their feet with promulgating the 'media decree' - illegal though it, and all other decrees since Easter, 2009, clearly are (no constitutionally legitimated 'heads of powers'), and why the 'in practice' censorship, on most available evidence, is arbitrary, inconsistent, and, at worst, vindictive.

The foregoing, of course, assumes key players in the regime actually do know what they're doing. I'd rather suggest they are suffering from a very noticeable case of collective Group Think.

The analogy between the Fiji regime's activities and Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland', first deployed by the only significant player in Fijian affairs to have any remaining credibility, ousted Vice-President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, now learning how to operate a Pacific Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Solomon Islands, and later deployed by Ms Foster in her WPFD talk (with its readily acknowledged methodological flaws, at least in its currently available form), remains, very sadly and chillingly, apt.

End of this comment
Doctor Haze said…
Mark Hayes, all I can say about this long winded repetition of everything you've ever said is - God help the journalists you are meant to be training. I naively imagined you were all supposed to be economical with words, rapier sharp in their choice and meaning and cogent and moderately clever in the development of an argument. Yet it's taken you two entire postings to tell us nothing new at all, the other obligation of any journalist worth their salt. I suggest that if you don't like being subjected to personal comments, the best course of action is to lift your game. I'm marking your latest effort two out of ten. How you got a Phd quite is beyond me.
Dr Mark Hayes said…
Apologies for adding a PS comment, and, to follow my argument, mentally insert this after the first paragraph of my Part Two, above...

Another practical reality which must be fully factored into the Fiji media situation are the highly varying levels or capacities of Media Literacy among Fiji's media audiences.

Even among the educated, employed, and urban elites, Fijian media literacy is highly variable, in very real, practical, or feigned, ways.

As advertisers constantly lament, and media outlets eagerly exploit, simply placing a message in the media does not, in and of itself, result in the sought after audience outcome (sales increases, changes in or reinforcement of established buyer behavior etc.).

Audiences interpret media messages, even those imbued with some sort of higher credibility, like news, current affairs, Op Ed opinion, etc. in highly varying ways, even in situations of potential or actual severe social unrest or tension.

Censorship in such situations allows the corrosive, even incendiary, rumor mill to go into hyper-drive. Anybody who knows anything about Fiji amply knows that the Coconut Wireless is the most reliable 'public service' even if its contents range from genuinely fantastic to absolutely accurate.

By far the best policy for a regime to pursue when it wants to seriously and sincerely engage the people in its agendas is transparent and genuine dialogue, including via a free, open, and responsible mass media, unpleasant though some competing messages published might well be.

A rigorous media censorship policy and practice demonstrates a regime's fear of, and utter contempt for, the people whom the censorship is rationalized as being deployed to 'protect'. It is paternalistic, even when we factor fully into the situation highly varying levels of practical media literacy which obtain in a place like Fiji.

That said... read back to Paragraph Three of my Part Two, above...
Sixes and sevens said…
Cros, is this guy Hayes for real? He wants us to paste this last bit into what he said before? And before that? Is this a joke or is the identity thief making a comeback? lol
Ripcord pulling academics said…
By his own admission, Mark Hayes knew nothing about Fiji until he came to teach at USP at the end of 2000. He spent three years in Suva in the early period of the Qarase government and would have absorbed a fair amount in that time. But like many expatriates and especially Australian diplomats in Fiji, Hayes seems never to have grasped the magnitude of the volcanic forces building during Qarase's tenure that finally erupted with Bainimarama's coup at the end of 2006. He uses phrases like "anyone who knows anything about Fiji" as if he has a life-long connection with the country. Yet he sees everything through the prism of the Australian journalist turned academic that he is. He certainly has no sympathy for the view of many in Fiji that the western democratic model is only OK when it works ( and creates genuine equality of opportunity ) and is best dispensed with when overt racism takes hold and one race seeks to lord it over the rest. Mark, hanging around with your journo mates from the Fiji Times and nodding in constant agreement with the likes of Sean Dorney at UQ cocktail parties isn't giving you any better grasp of the country. Your old patron at USP, David Robie, has a much better understanding of what happens in Fiji and you'd do well to defer to his superior knowledge and powers of analysis. You rail against "parachute journalists" in your various writings without realising that you're an even more malevolent species - the parachute academic.
Rumpole J. said…
Stunning, is it not, that not one commentator above has had anything whatsoever to say about corruption? A Cabal of Corruption which has infested and consumed Fiji, its institutions, its corporate entities, politicians, boards of directors and variegated Chairpersons for almost two decades. In pontificating about the Media and Legal issues, this has been completely overlooked yet it is, without doubt, the single most serious and fundamental factor which drives everything else. Organised crime which stems from corruption, inveighs against stability and undermines the rule of law with its overwhelming and arrogant sense of impunity receives nary a mention. How can one take any of the above seriously when the analysis of the climate is so badly flawed? Have any of you spent any time at all in Court? Now, five years ago? Or even ten years ago? Doubtful. So how would you have any idea of the 'status quo' or the 'status quo ante'? If the truth be told, none of you do and that includes Ms Foster.
Croz Walsh said…
@ James Anthony last laugh.... Muslim clique? Beware the stereotyping. There are many divisions within Islam, about which you appear unaware.

@ Ripcord ... My colleagues at USP tell me Mark held a short-term, temporary position at the university, and for far shorter than three years. This, of course, does not mean he knows nothing about Fiji, but it could be less than he would have us believe. Sorry, Mark, but if you set yourself up as an expert, we need to know your Fiji credentials.

@ Rumpole ... The comments were in response to a "special" group of postings on the draft Media Decree. Corruption issues have been covered many times in the blog but if you would like to write a "special" feature on corruption, with some names/institutions,facts and figures, I'd be delighted to give it prominence.
Guele de Loup said…
@ Rumpole J

Yes, it is truly astounding that all these people postulate ideas as to why things are they way they are. None of them has the guts or the determination to really find out why. They hypothesize from their narrow perches, some so narrow that their arguments are fallacious before they begin. Has any one of them gone beyond the merely superficial or academic and dealt with those who are the victims of violent crime/threats/murder even? Would Ms Sophie Foster or Mr Netani Rika have a clue about what is taking place under their very noses? One must conclude in the negative. They report and react only on what personally confronts them. In ten years or more they have never dug sufficiently deeply or consistently to find out how most of Fiji lives. Their knowledge of the Fiji judicial system has been so poor that one of them fell into a contempt so profound that never in Fiji's history had its equal been recorded. This is the calibre of journalism extant within Fiji's oldest and erstwhile respected daily newspaper. Compromised, colluding in guile and in alleged corruption. Contemptible indeed. Yet these same people are deemed worthy of 'congratulation'. Come on!
Walt Merdok said…
@ Dr Hayes

In regards to your comments on the court of appeal decision: I have read the judgment at first instance of Gates CJ and I have read the court of appeal judgment of the three Australian barristers who were the court of appeal.

Both of these judgments are sound and rational. It was a genuine line ball case. I consider the judgment of Gates CJ to be more accurate and reasonable. The fact that no stay was granted meant that the regime had nowhere to go, other than disappear. The power vacuum would have been a disaster for Fiji.

The rapid implememntation of reforms we have seen post December 2006, could not have occurred under the cumbersome machinations of "democracy" in the same time frames. It was groundhog day in Fiji and someone had to take the bull by the horns.

Fortunately for Fiji, that someone (acknowledging it has not been mistake free) is basically honest and determined to reduce corruption in governance and the electoral system. Aus and NZ are only concerned with the semblance of democracy in true political dogma style.

Journalism is not the "profession" it once was. Using Aus and NZ as examples, the biased "barrow pushing" we have seen in recent years is lacking in integrity. Recently an Aus newspaper hailed Ian Thorpe's return to competitive swimming. The FRONT PAGE headlines declared Thorpe Returns. He was interviewed and said "we want to win more gold in the commonwealth games".

The genius scribe interpreted that as Thorpe making a comeback? It sold papers! That is one minor and recent example. The media is in the business of selling a commodity and all ethical boundaries were lost years ago. Profit over truth. Have a look at who owns certain media interests in Fiji. Tell me they will not use the media to promote their own cause.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental freedom. Like so many other fundamental freedoms it has been abused heavily.

I agree with parts of the decree and disagree with other parts. To say it is all wrong is a dogmatic and simple approach that does not account for the disintergration of what was once a vital and ethical profession.

The media's primary position, in this day and age, is to make money. The core principle of conveying information objectively is a thing of the past.
Anonymous said…
To understand Dr Mark Hayes's ideas you will need four things:
1. A written sample of his work. Five hundred words will do;
2. A dictionary/thesaurus;
3. Endless reserves of patience; and
4. A whole Sunday afternoon so you can use items 2 and 3 to understand 1.


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