This Blog Practises Responsible Media Freedom: Reply to Critics
I think most people who read this blog would recognize my attempts at fairness and balance. A small number think I'm too tolerant of those making anti-government comments. Others have accused me of being a coup apologist. They say I label NZ media articles propaganda but do not label Fiji government publications similarly. They say I print only one side of the story, and block comments with which I disagree. This is not the case, as more a careful review of the blog would show.
This reply to these criticisms is based on the assumption that those making them are genuine in their beliefs and are not simply vociferous anti-government people taking opportunities to snipe at the "enemy."
The blog's political stance is neutral to pro-Government. I do not approve of coups or military-led governments but to move Fiji forward the de facto situation and de facto government must be accepted. I believe the government prior to 2006 was very far from democratic; its leadership included prominent racists; it tolerated and perpetuated corruption, nepotism and gross inefficiencies from which a small number of people benefited, and from which ordinary people of all races did not. For the moment, I am prepared to give the Bainimarama government the benefit of the doubt. The government is doing some good things and I think it's gaining support for its institutional and infrastructural reforms. How many PMs have toured the provinces, listened to the people, and made good on what they promise so quickly? How many PM's have kept civil servants on their toes? The People's Charter, a revised Constitution and electoral reform can point the way forward to a better Fiji for all. But I also have a number of concerns. I would like to see more citizen participation in decision-making, the dialogue process brought forward and made more inclusive, a free but responsible media, and more open discussion and acceptance of contrary public opinion. My primary purpose is to help positive outcomes in 2014.
NZ Media Propaganda
The foreign media has done a terrible job on Fiji. It is far from informed or impartial. Its choice of news items, photos, news headings and most of its sources are deeply biased and anti-government. No news appears on the good things government is doing. On some issues, most recently the false and misleading coverage of the typhoid outbreak in Navosa, the "news" was factually wrong and was correctly labelled as propaganda.
One Side of the Story
My blog uses many sources, inside and outside Fiji, to which I often add an explanation, comment or suggestion. More good news than bad is published about the Bainimarama government in order to restore the imbalance created by the foreign media. Where I disagree or feel uncomfortable about what the Bainmarama government is doing, I say so -- but always respectfully and, I hope, helpfully. The blog is read by many people outside Fiji and I aim to provide them with a better understanding of the political situation than they can get from the mainstream media or the anti-government blogs. I am not just writing for people in Fiji.
An important feature of this blog is its comment. Until recently most were polite, well reasoned and helpful. Readers could comment directly on the blog without having the comment verified by me. Unfortunately, verification was recently introduced because anti-government people bombarded the blog with nonsensical "comments" aimed at destroying genuine exchanges of opinion. In some instances, they merely copied a long blog article and pasted it into Comments, cluttering up the web pages.
I am committed to reasoned discussion and debate. This is why I spoke up strongly against Government blocking blogs and advised readers how to get around the blocks. Two weeks ago I started a companion blog, Na Sala Cava, which is entirely devoted to readers' opinions on questions about Fiji's future.
No politely worded, reasoned comment addressing issues important to Fiji has ever -- or will ever-- be blocked or deleted from these blog because I disagree with the opinions expressed, unless the opinions are repetitive and add nothing to the discussion. I welcome worthwhile comments from all parts of political spectrum and would like to see more of them. Most comments are anonymous. Readers use pseudonyms and there is no way they can be traced. This blog preaches and practises freedom of the press and responsible reporting. My critics should direct their criticism elsewhere.
P.S. For the past few days comments may appear to have been blocked but until today I have not had access to the internet.