All Good Men


LONG DISTANCE VISION. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party" and "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy's dog's back" were two sentences used to teach touch typing.  Somehow the good men who make up the International Federation of Journalists got it all mixed up and jumped on to the wrong lazy dog's back.

Never slow to to criticise events in Fiji, the Federation's latest statement, on the Media Decree, does it and its anonymous informants no credit. The statement is flawed by the errors of fact, inference and exaggeration noted below. One might have hoped that Coupfourpointfive -- run by another group of journalists -- in publishing  the IFJ release, would have picked up its shortcomings before me.

The IFJ's statements follow, with my comments:

1. IFJ.The Decree "permanently installs the sweeping censorship." Me. This would only be true if there were no checks and balances within the Decree (which there are) and if those appointed to the Authority and Tribunal were totally lacking in professional integrity. Since only one person has been appointed so far, and no cases have been heard, it is difficult to comment.

2. IFJ.The decree is little changed from an April draft that met with international condemnation. Me. This is not true. There are major changes, including a larger and more representative Authority, rights of search, appeals to the Court, extent of fines, and cross-ownership.

3. IFJ.The Decree "erases the rights of journalists and the media to report in the public interest.” Me. This, of course, assumes that the media reports in the public interest, which is disputable, and certainly has not always been the case in Fiji. It's also rather  precious for any media group to claim an exclusive right to know what is in the public interest.

4.IFJ. “Fiji’s power-holders need to step back from this coercive and ultimately destructive law, and initiate moves to a cooperative independent regulatory system that is supported by local media and recognised by the international community.” Me. Been there, done that with the "old" Media Council comprising media representatives under Daryl Tarte's chairmanship. Tarte complained of lack of funds to be effective and others said the Council lacked teeth because it had no way of enforcing its decisions. This is why Fiji needs a media decree, that may or may not be supported by the media (I suspect many Fiji jojurnalists think the Decree is fair) , and whether it is or is not acceptable to foreigners. Its foremost responsibility is to the people of Fiji.

5.IFJ. The law provides for two government-appointed bodies. A Media Tribunal will comprise one member appointed by the President. A Media Industry Development Authority will have six members appointed by the Minister for Information. Me. The one Tribunal member is a judge. How many cases need more than one? Ministers in many countries make similar appointments to quasi-government authorities.

6.IFJ. Under the law, the regime and its authorities will decide what is fair, balanced and quality journalism. Me. Those appointed under the Decree will ensure -- and not the  "regime or its authorities"--  “that nothing is included in the content of any media service which is against public interest or order, or national interest, or which offends against good taste or decency and creates communal discord”. What is wrong with that?

7. IFJ. The IFJ fears for journalists and media organisations, which can be fined and jailed if the tribunal rules that news reports breach the regime’s media codes, including its Media Code of Ethics and Practice. Me. If they break the rules, they will be penalised. The codes seem reasonable and I doubt anyone would object to anything in the code of ethics.

8.IFJ. The tribunal may also order compensation of up to $100,000 Fiji dollars (about USD 50,600) be paid by media organisations to “any person aggrieved or adversely affected” by media reports. Me.  Right. Our courts can impose even stiffer penalties under our libel laws. Note that it is the organization and not its editors or journalists than can be charged under this provision.

9.IMF. "This action clearly targets the Fiji Times. Me. Right, and with cause.  Write "Fiji Times" in the Search facility on this blog to read  about Fiji Times transgressions over the past two years. If the IFJ think the Fiji Times has been an "independent critical voice," they are dreaming.  Before April 2009, the FT printed anti-government items at a ratio of four to one; since then it has printed almost NO government news!

10.IFJ. The right of appeal against tribunal decisions is only available where a penalty or compensation payment of $50,000 Fiji dollars (about USD 25,300) has been ordered. Me. Section79 (2) refers only to organizations, not to editors or journalists for whom no minimum is stipulated.

So there you have it.  Another well intended but uninformed and unbalanced denunciation from offshore experts, few if any of whom have ever been to Fiji.  There are concerns about how the Decree will be used (and I shall write about these as time goes on) but it is not the draconian document its critics would have their readers believe.

I opened with notes on touch typing.  A children's song seems an apt way to conclude:
If you go down to the woods today
You'd better not go alone.
It's lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.

For ev'ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Don't go down to the woods today, the journalists are  having a picnic.

Comments

lipstick on a pig said…
Croz
Do you know what a military coup is?
Do you truly believe this junta is beneficial to Fiji?
Is this what you also advocate for NZ and other democracies?
It's Not Ideal said…
Croz,

I now live overseas, and every time I go back (about twice a year), I see the people are a little bit sadder, the streets a little bit bleaker.

No, it isn't a very scientific way of measuring the opposition to (or support for) the current group in power but it's no worse than you sitting at your computer in Horowhenua, deciding to take a solitary trip to Fiji, returning to your heated home in Horowhenua and saying what is happening in Fiji is good.

My relatives back home can no longer afford a decent Sunday lunch. Five years ago they could have a chicken or some fish. Now they are lucky if they can afford a tin of tuna flakes.

A tin, Croz, a tiny tin. For a family of six.

The children have to wake up extra early now and walk for 45minutes along a busy main road before they catch a bus to school,

It's not because there is no bus servicing the area - there is a bus stop 50 metres from their home - they just can't afford to catch the bus from there.

I did not find this out until my recent visit, but their mother was making her children's underwear out of discarded pieces of sulu.

Of course, you would not know this if as a stranger, you approached them, stuck a microphone, camera or tape recorder in their face and said: "How are things now?"

The Fijian way is to give you a big smile and say "Set!"

Now, the people who are endlessly holding debates on this or any other blog, are not representative of ordinary Fiji citizens.

No ordinary Fiji citizen can afford access to the internet. The people on your site (me included) either live overseas or if they live in Fiji, have a good enough standard of living to be able to afford a luxury like the internet.

Our Saturday shopping is free from having to make endless concession within a limited and rapidly shrinking budget.

So our pontificating about the pros and cons of the last four or so years means nothing.

We do not represent the ordinary citizens who have had no opportunity to have their say. And those are the people whose real views we should get.

Not the plump-cheeked, armchair experts who sit in front of their computers and presume to know what is best for the country.

To get those genuine views, you need to have a relationship with the people who need to somehow make a small tin of tuna flakes feed six people on a Sunday, and who are lucky to be able to have cassava or rice with unsugared lemon tea for the rest of the week.

For weeks on end.
Cornileus said…
I've lost all faith in the ability of the media to provide the truth - even the BBC. One-sided, biased, lying, reporting by ommision, manipulative - you name it.

Having seen on NZ television, to give the impression that Fiji was unstable and unsafe, the lying swine had file footage of the 2000 coup, and US TROOPS ON PATROL IN AFGANISTAN! Then you wonder why my rellies ring up concerned about our welfare.

Wake up Kiwi.

"A man from the wilderness asked of me,
How many strawberries grew in the sea
I answered him as I thought good,
As many red herrings grew in the wood."

Lipstick - this administration may not be the best answer, but it is less damaging than the previous "elected" regime.
SOE said…
@ lipstick on a pig.....

Get real and get here: "Come to the aid of the Party". That is what is required. You sound like one of a bunch of just out of nursery school infants loathe to graduate to something bigger and more demanding. The French Constitution grew out of 'The Terror' - have you forgotten? The US Constitution grew out of a war of independence. History has most of the required lessons. Everything worthwhle derives from struggle. Time to grow up and into the 'world as it really is'. Your country needs you. That is all that matters. Today's villains will soon become heroes. That is also a verity born of history. With one exception: corruption on the grand scale funded by international money requires a monumental struggle and there is no neutral ground. Got it now? Those who deny the situation are part of the problem and history will treat you harshly.
Liu Muri said…
Lipstick on a pig, Croz has implied it and I openly say, that: ANY DEMOCRACY THAT CANNOT DELIVER SOCIAL JUSTICE, FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY TO ALL ITS PEOPLE IS NOT WORTH DEFENDING.

To your question whether dictatorship is beneficial to NZ and other democracies, the answer is NO. Of all the forms of government, democracy seems to be the lesser of the evil. However, as in case of Fiji, if democracy fails in NZ or other countries, then there has to be an alternative. Whether you like it or not, Fiji has found that alternative in Frank Bainimarama.
sara'ssista said…
There is this continual presumption that because there is a decree there is some element of protection. This regime now choses to again have somehow missed by Sharon Smith, again what emergency or national crisis is happening that requires this, what about the previous commitment that after the promulgation , it would not be necessary?, and that this regime has any respect for rules or laws or a judiciary to interpret these decress. They are only binding on a regime that is satisfied, if they are not they will just sack the judge, deport critics, arrest or intimidate. You appear to talking as if this regime doesn't have form and and despite no reportage, we know exactly what is going on and that this regime has no mandate whatsoever to make any change.
daucina said…
It is lame of Daryl Tarte to suggest that the Fiji Media Council failed only because of insufficient funding. Those who sat on the Fiji Media Council were insufficient in themselves. They did not understand the enormity of our entire problem including the intrinsic rottenness at the very core of governance: national and corporate. They did not see this because they were beneficiaries of it themselves.
Jobs disaster said…
Croz, I'm hoping you can bring this to the attention of some of the misguided contributors to your site who keep claiming the economy is heading for better times.
------
THE Fiji Sugar Corporation has embarked on a major cost-cutting exercise which will result in at least 1000 workers being laid off over the next 18 months.

CEO Deo Saran said the measures were necessary because of the company's tight financial situation, caused by declining European Union sugar prices in 2009 and a delay in the mill upgrade program.
-------

1000 sugar workers, 200 Fiji Times workers, 1000 others who rely on the Fiji Times.

Yeah, we're doing real well.
Phantom said…
I agree that a coup is is not an acceptable instrument to change government - that's one of the immediate difficulties faced by anyone attempting to rationalize what's happening in Fiji now. However, it is not helpful at all to condemn Bainimarama without first analyzing the conduct of Qarase's government, the 2001 and 2006 elections, and the changes that Bainimarama continues to implement in Fiji. Sometimes what might appear like a frog at face value might actually turn out to be a prince - all that's needed is that genuine kiss…. Even if it’s with lipstick and all!
Qoli gosh - more decrees said…
Crosbie

Anyone who keeps half an eye on the government website will realise that decrees have been proclaimed thick and fast recently. Just yesterday saw the promulgation or formulation of several important decrees, two of which might otherwise be missed under all the hype surrounding the media decree, but which in their own way might be considered far more important:
The Capital Markets Decree 2010
The Compulsory Registration of Customers for Telephone Services Decree 2010
The Land Use Decree 2010
The Surfing Areas Decree 2010

I dealt with the Land Use decree in a previous posting, however the Surfing Areas decree
“aims to liberalise access to any surfing area in Fiji and thereby enhance Fiji’s image as a premier surf travel destination.”

Laudable aims.

The difficulty is that there are several resorts which presently have exclusive use over certain areas and presumably their business model is based on that exclusive use. They will no doubt be overjoyed to realise that the decree:
’overrides any existing interest by any person or body in any surfing area.’
‘cancels any existing instrument of title, including any lease or licence, without payment of any compensation’ and
‘excludes any challenges in the courts against the cancellation of any existing interest in any surfing area, …for the betterment of the tourism industry without [incurring] any legal or administrative hurdles.’

I’d be interested to hear your reader’s views on this, which is clearly a continuation of this government’s policy of enacting retrospective legislation without allowing legal challenges from affected parties.

The Fiji Judicial system is barred from deliberating on any matters pertaining to decrees or their ramifications. Under such circumstances, it’s small wonder that the government considers the judiciary ‘impartial’.

Perhaps a better term would be ‘irrelevant’.
Anonymous said…
Pulling my hair our reading this stuff....

Croz,

If Prof Nandan made these comments below he has not made a good start.
He is making judgements on the Fiji Times before a single case has come in front of him. Not to mention contradicting Ms Smith-Jones who said the decree was not targeting the FT. Also unlike you Croz he thinks the FT did a good job before the December 06 Coup.

I think the main purpose of the decree is to control any negative comment against 1) Military, 2) PM and/or Military appointed Government. Many governments would like a media that only sings their praise but this government has now got one. And if Prof Nandan does actually allow balance comment...his job will be gone too.

"Professor Nandan told The Australian he believed the foreign ownership laws were directed at The Fiji Times because of its coverage of the military regime, particularly after the scrapping of the judiciary and constitution last year. "The Fiji Times is an institution, a part of everyday life here, and has a number of very fine journalists," he said.

"We had a media that was vibrant and vigilant until things went wrong in 2006 (the coup) and then some parts of the media became abusive and scurrilous.

"The Fiji Times took a strong stand against the current government and the abrogation of the constitution and they didn't consider the national interest."

Interested in your thoughts on this Croz.
Red Dragon said…
@ Pulling your hair out......

Professor Nandan, for whom I have great respect. was incorrect in his assertion that the Fiji Times was 'full on okay' prior to December 2005. One would beg to differ. The Fiji Times since before the 2000 attempted coup d'etat (during the Chaudhary led government) was "off beam". It was manipulative, racist and absolutely provocative in the extreme. When the uprising took place and hostage taking in Parliament lasting 56 days, the Fiji Times was by no manner of estimation objective, balanced or sound in its reporting. It contributed allegedly to the disaster from which we are still suffering in Fiji. There are liability issues here: large ones. Innocent lives in Fiji were lost and parliamentarians were terrorised, taken hostage and held at gun-point for almost 8 weeks. That was terrorism in its most obvious manifestation. Did the Fiji Times ever allude or dare to call it this? No, it did not - not once. All responsible at the Fiji Times (owners/publishers/editors/journalists at that time) are accountable and responsible for the lack of clarity and clear stance. They are accountable to the Nation State and to the People of Fiji. No ducking or diving can distance them from this responsibility. They all know who they are. Most are still with us. Most have never deemed it necessary or required that they should apologise for their failures (though some of their compadres have from within Natabua Prison). No doubt they will be allowed easy access to Down South with all expenses paid. Will they all accept? No doubt they will - with alacrity!
Global Citizen said…
Croz Walsh, retired academic, lives in democratic, safe, free New Zealand and collects a taxpayer funded pension. He spouts about the glories of Fiji military dictatorship safe in the knowledge he does not have to live in it. He is the classic example of the Great White Man lecturing about the Natives.
SOE said…
@ Global Citizen

You sound as smug in your assertions as those whom you intend to portray. There can be no comparison whatsoever between democracy as practised in New Zealand and the charade that paraded in Fiji as a democracy in the past twenty years or more. Nothing about the Fiji political process was democratic: it was all stage managed and an aberration of political freedom of choice. There was no choice: for anyone. Did you ever cast a vote in Fiji in the past thirty years, Global Citizen? No, we suspect you did not. Nothing to discuss.
Action please said…
Rather than look back and argue about the relative merits of the democracy we had, wouldn't it be preferable to debate the democracy we all want? I'm deeply concerned that as the months go by, the consultations the regime promised seem to have stalled. Rather than issuing reassuring noises about the delay, the PM has started to signal that ordinary people want the dictatorship to continue beyond 2014. This is totally unacceptable and in breach of every undertaking he's made previously, both to the people of Fiji and the international community. We even have the likes of Croz saying he merely trusts that Frank will stick to his promises, rather than delivering the requisite "or else". I want a lot more debate about what those of us who've given conditional acceptance to the regime will do if it breaks its solemn undertakings. Frank needs to know that this is non negotiable and that the current acquiescence he enjoys will turn to hostile opposition unless he delivers what he promised - elections by September 2014. He needs to start the process now with the consultative process he also promised but which seems to have been put on the back burner. The longer he prevaricates, the more people will wonder whether Frank's true agenda for himself is President for Life.
Walker TR said…
@ Action please:

It is perfectly understandable and reasonble given the past rocky three and a half years that many people are in a quandary about where we are headed in the medium to long term. A considered estimation and judgement is that we have to 'STOP THE ROT' first. If we cannot do this, what is the point of contemplating a political process? This rot set in for good within a supposed democratic process: a skewed and failed process which was not true democracy because the people did not vote freely or fairly for it. The Cabinet of 36 Ministers and Assistant Ministers all paid for from public money was a total fiasco and an aberration of any rational democratic process. We MUST have seen that? If we did not, did we not at least do our sums? How was Fiji to afford them? For how long? Could we ever do it all again without going bankrupt? No we could not. So what must we do instead? STOP THE ROT. We know who many of these people are: we know who has aided and abetted them and taken massive bribes to do so (allegedly, of course). The evidence abounds and people's names are appended. The same names - we must know by now who they are? IF so, then have the courage of our convictions. Only then will 2014 be a realistic date for some kind of political exercise. We have to be worthy of it, do we not? Being worthy means courageous action. Those who now know they are found out would do well to hand themselves in to the authorities of their own volition. They might save us all a few years of jail time paid for from our taxation. This is no sick joke. This is for real.

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