An Open Letter from Moses Stevens and PINA
Pacific Islands News Associaton president Moses Stevens accuses Marc Neil-Jones, publisher of the Vanuatu Daily Post of bias and ignorance of Fiji. He draws parallels between the current Fiji situation and that of Vanuatu when it was struggling to establish itself after independence, and defends PINA against the new journalism breakaway orgnization recently formed.Links to Stevens and Neil-Jones.
SUVA (Pacific Islands News Association/Pacific Media Watch) by Moses Stevens: I wish to make some clarifications in regards to Marc Neil-Jones' ways of using his newspaper to discredit other people and [to] try to advocate his opinions and views on national and regional issues in Vanuatu.
With due respect to the contributions the Daily Post is making in regards to keeping the people informed in Vanuatu and the efforts of those people behind it, it is sad and very worrying to see how someone like Mr Neil-Jones [is] using such a respectable news medium (produced by mostly ni-Vanuatu journalists) in pushing his personal agendas and trying to convince people to support and believe in them.
I think Neil-Jones has failed to find out the reasons behind the military coup in Fiji to start off with. I believe this should have cleared the minds of people on the "transitional" process that Fiji is currently going through.The military had alleged that there was too much corruption in the election process of the country and that they intended to clean up the country of corrupt practices and lay the ground for fresh democratic elections in 2014.
When Vanuatu became independent in 1980, the new government then, and those that followed, had tight control over media in the country. One foreign publisher was deported and a newspaper closed down as a result. News stories were sent to the ministry responsible for media before they were broadcast or printed. Journalists were threatened and even assaulted for doing their job. These things did not represent good governance and democratic principles at all in the normal sense, or a free media environment for that matter.
But as we know, certain things happen for a reason or for a purpose in a particular point in time. The new Vanuatu government had strict control over media because it understood the power of media, and the damage it could cause on the "transitional" process of moving away from the colonial governments and building up the new nation that had just been born.
The Fiji situation is no different to the Vanuatu experience. Everyone is against any military takeover of a country, there is no question about that. But if Fiji needed such a case to happen to deal with corruption and not just for the mere self interests of those behind it, then we in Vanuatu of all people should be able to understand them.
No one can deny the fact that corruption is happening among government leaders and members of the business communities in all the countries of the Pacific, or even the whole world. We in Vanuatu have been fighting corruption over recent years in different ways, including advocating and educating our people on what corruption is and how to eliminate the practice by not voting corrupt people to power. How long it will take for the country to resolve these problems, we do not know. Other countries in the region are also facing the same situation.
Fiji is the only country in the Pacific that has a well trained and highly professional military force. But one outstanding thing about these Fijian military personnel is that they always hold their country at heart no matter where they may be serving.
We say that people have the power through their votes, to bring about changes and getting rid of corrupt politicians in our country. But at the same time we see that the corrupt leaders also have their strategies as well on how to maintain control over the people in their electorates.
Apparently, the Fijians have an alternate "concept" (if you like) whereby corruption could be dealt with in their country - the military. I must point out that those Fijian soldiers are very intelligent and highly trained. But like I said earlier, they hold their roots as Fijians at heart. As citizens of Fiji they also share the same views and concerns of their people on the level of corruption that is happening in their country.
It is unfortunate that they have to resort to using their military powers and resources to help fight corruption in their country. But that is an area that we as outsiders cannot step into.
It would be only fair that the military government is given the chance to prove they are genuine about their motive of fighting corruption. They have said that they would prepare the country for fresh democratic elections in 2014. If that is what they would do, then they should be allowed to work toward that deadline.
Like it happened in Vanuatu, a lot of people were complaining after 1980 that if only we had remained with the colonial governments. But look where we are today. We are no worse than any other islands of the region. We have pulled through and we are still pushing on forward.
The Fijians will have to make some sacrifices. Like Vanuatu, people will complain because things were not turning out the way they would expect. But if Vanuatu can pull through, then we believe that Fiji will pull through too.
Like Vanuatu and other independent nations, Fiji is an independent and sovereign state and that must be respected.
The Pacific Islands News Association does not have the power nor the right to tell the Fijians what to do. PINA will work with all governments of the region, including Fiji, to develop the media industry and to promote media freedom.
The case of PINA membership is not a new one. A lot of media organizations in the region have already refrained from paying membership since the merger of the Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association (PIBA) and PINA in November 2004, due mainly to disagreements over the merger idea.
Neil-Jones was a member of the PINA board in 2005-2007. Prior to 2005, only the Daily Post was a financial member of PINA. But from 2005 to date, most Vanuatu media organizations have become financial members. Daily Post has not paid up since then.
To blame the current PINA leadership on the sluggishness of financial membership would be wrong and misleading. Most of those people grouping with Neil-Jones are NOT financial members of PINA. How can one claim to be pulling out of an organization of which he or she is NOT a member already?
The current PINA board is still faced with some of the same challenges that have existed through the terms of previous boards, and while it is trying to take the organization forward, people who had other interests and agendas see the opportunity that the Fiji situation poses to come out and say they are pulling out to form an alternate media association for the Pacific.
PINA is for the Pacific Islands people and will always respect and uphold the Pacific ways of dealing with issues affecting its members. PINA has an MOU with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to work with forum member governments and its partners in developing professionalism in the media industry, and promoting a better understanding of media in the Pacific society.
The current PINA board believes that "media freedom" can only be embraced and enjoyed in the Pacific when everyone in the society including governments and other stakeholders, have a better understanding of the media and how to use the media effectively in enhancing good governance. PINA encourages its members to advocate media freedom in their respective societies.
Information floating among PINA members say that the key players in the idea of another media association in the Pacific are mostly naturalised citizens or non Pacific islanders doing business in the Pacific media industry or not living in the islands.
PINA encourages "responsible reporting" because we represent media organisations from the developing nations of the Pacific. We would like to see our reporters develop skills would help them disseminate information without instigating rifts between parties or members of our societies.
PINA wants the Pacific journalists to tell our own stories to the world, because misrepresentation and or misinterpretation of issues in the Pacific by foreign journalists (who do not understand or accept our ways) could be damaging to our countries' development process.
We want to see regional governments embrace media as a major player and partner in our countries' development process, and especially in promoting and enhancing good governance.
Pacific Islands News Association