Typhoid Reports in NZ Media:Croz Complains; Barbara Dreaver Replies
Following the misleading typhoid outbreak reports by the NZ media, I complained to RadioNZ and TVNZ. Below are my letter of complaint, Barbara Dreaver's reply from TVNZ, and my reply to Barbara. RadioNZ has not replied.
My Letter of Complaint
TVNZ, RadioNZ and teletext news could lead our tourists to believe they are in danger of catching typhoid if they visit Fiji. Navosa, where the outbreak has occurred, is 50km inland from Sigatoka and the Coral Coast, in an area only visited by tourists on arranged tours of Fijian villages. The main tourist areas are nowhere near Navosa, and the chance of any tourist catching typhoid is extremely remote. To my knowledge no tourist has ever died of typhoid in Fiji, and I doubt many have been infected. The disease can be avoided by taking normal precautions: Do not drink unboiled water, and wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet.
Further details may be found on my blogsite: crosbiew.blogspot.com
While I am sureTVNZ has not deliberately broadcast this misleading news which must adversely affect the Fiji tourist industry, I am less sure that the journalist Michael Field, well known for his anti-Fiji government views, is not the perpetrator of the information.
I urge you to correct the news before any more damage is done.
Barbara Dreaver's Reply (TVNZ)
Dear Mr Walsh
Thank you for your feedback.
I am not sure where you get your information from but I got mine from the Fiji Ministry of Health and WHO based in Fiji. We got the press conference fed via satellite from Fiji.
In that press conference they specifically said warning letters had gone out to hoteliers on the Coral Coast to watch their staff and guests, that hotel employees should not be around food if they were feeling unwell and the Ministry was discouraging visitors to the area - and as well as cancelling public gatherings an emergency response team is looking at banning all movements to the area. They said they fear the typhoid outbreak is spreading swiftly. Fiji TV also broadcast the above facts.
There was nothing misleading about the TVNZ piece, it was based on the information from Fiji Ministry of Health - in fact kudos has to go to the Ministry for being so upfront about the situation and acting to prevent its spread.
Thank you for your blog details - I admit I have never heard of your blog - but then I tend to avoid blogs except David Robie's from AUT as I find they are generally based in opinion and very little fact. Certainly we would not use details from a blog as fact for a news story. Neither would I get facts for a news item from another journalist's article.
Regards, Barbara Dreaver
My Reply to Barbara
Bula Vinaka Barbara,
In thanking you sincerely for your reply, I think it important to comment further on the matters raised.
I have not claimed that you (or any other NZ journalist) has not reported the facts. My complaint only concerns their misrepresentation. If you read the releases from Michael Field, TVNZ, teletext and RadioNZ , there can be little doubt that the NZ public would think visiting Fiji a health risk. The failure of the media generally to locate the outbreak, Michael's statement that it was affecting the "main tourist area," and TVNZ's statement that "the area of Navosa ... includes the tourist coral coast." was the main cause of my complaint.
It is not the facts that are in dispute, but the way some facts are reported and others, that should be reported, are not. When journalists consciously do this, it is hard to believe they are merely reporting the "facts." The conscious selection of facts to report a situation out of its context (in this case its location) constitutes an opinion that could well misrepresent the facts.
You refer to the Ministry of Health warnings about visits, public gatherings, and possibly banning movement in the "area". This clearly refers to Navosa, not the Coral Coast, where a separate warning was sent to hoteliers. You do not make this important distinction in your letter.
You correctly report that the outbreak could spread, but it should, I think, also have been reported that, for the moment, the outbreak is confined to an isolated, inland part of Viti Levu, some distance from the Coral Coast and much further away from the main tourist area. Most NZ reports did not make this at all clear.
I am surprised that as a well informed Pacific journalist, you have never heard of my blog. To date it has had nearly 10,000 unique visits from Australia, 9,000 from Fiji and 8,000 from New Zealand. The blog frequently reports items published on David Robie's sites, and indeed David often used my material. The blog also publishes "facts" and "opinions" seldom reported by our media. Its political stance and the political leanings of my postings are indicated. I am no newcomer to Fiji, and the blog is informed from a wide range of sources. Your inference that my sources are somehow less reliable than yours is unfounded.
I attach for your interest a link to my article on Fiji blogs published in David's Pacific Journalist Review. The original paper was presented to the PIPSA conference in Auckland last December. http://www.pjreview.info/issues/docs/16_1/pjr_16%281%29_FijiBlogs_pp154-177.pdf
Several of my readers have suggested the recent misreporting of the typhoid outbreak be taken to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. I do not think this is necessary on this occasion.
Thank you again for your reply.
P.S. Your statement that "kudos has to go to the Ministry for being so upfront about the situation and acting to prevent its spread" puzzles me. You seem to suggest it might have done otherwise.
Prof. Crosbie Walsh