Rakiraki a Town, Abuse of Media, Suits for Chiefs, Phone Registration
(-+) "CHIEF CENSOR FOR FIJI'S DICTATOR". "A former Fairfax newspaper executive is the chief censor for Fiji's dictator and in charge of his latest crackdown on press freedom." That's how The Australian reporter Michael McKenna reports an interview with Sharon Smith-Johns, Fiji's Acting Permanent Secretary of Information that was syndicated to other papers. My "copy" is from the Herald Sun. The Australian is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd that also owned the Fiji Times, although no possible conflict of interest was noted in my copy or, I expect, in any other copy as the original story migrated to other news places.
Apparently the PS "refused 'to be drawn' on allegations about the beating and jailing of Commodore Bainimarama's opponents, but conceded she was the country's "chief censor" and oversaw the removal of any negative reporting about the regime."
If you think this sort of "news" reporting fair or balanced, check how McKenna's "opinions" comes out in his choice of words. News and opinions are not supposed to mix in news reporting. That's supposed to be in editorials and signed columns.
But McKenna did report that the PS had "applied to be appointed permanently in the job because she believed in the military leader. "I am not doing it for money; I am doing it because I believe in this man," she said, interrupting the main thrust of the article about "new laws that threaten to jail journalists" -- and the Media Decree's "unfair" treatment of, yes, you've guessed it, the Fiji Times.
If journalists keep going on this track, they'll soon be the butt of jokes like this: "The stonecutter asked the journalist what inscription he'd like on his grave. 'Here lies an honest man and a journalist', he replied. 'Sorry, but I can't do that,' said the stonecutter. "It's against the law to bury two people in the same grave." Or this one, I just made up" Q: What does the one-eyed journalist does with his other eye? A: Which other eye? Alternative A: Wink.
(o) CFL REVIEWING MEDIA DECREE. Communications Fiji Limited, the parent company of Legend FM, FM96, VitiFM, Navtarang and Radio Sargam is currently reviewing the Media Industry development Decree and its potential impact on the company's performance and trading in shares. Managing Director William Parkinson thinks the decree will have no immediate financial effects but he has some concerns about cross-media ownership.
(+) MISUSE OF FUNDS. Funds given by the Education Ministry to develop Naitasiri Provincial High School were instead used to buy suits for the Naitasiri rugby team and chiefs of the province. Fiji as it was?
(o-) PHONE USERS MUST REGISTER. A new decree (The Compulsory Registration of Customers for Telephone Services Decree 2010) makes registration of fixed line and mobile phone customer details compulsory. Details to be registered are: full name, date of birth, photo identification, home address and parent’s signature if user is under 18 years.
The decree aims to limit bogus and threatening calls, including bomb threats, prank calls to emergency numbers, money laundering and the planning of crimes with mobile phones, and impersonation. Phones have been used to impersonate government ministers to obtain certain privileges and threatened the lives of ministers in an attempt to deter them from executing their official duties.
These reasons seem reasonable, should not cause much inconvenience, and would probably not cause a raised eyebrow in "normal" circumstances. Fiji's circumstances, however, are not normal. Government needs to give a firm assurance, and put checks in place, to ensure the information obtained will not used for reasons other than the stated purposes. It might have been better to live with the old abuses than create more copy for Government's opponents.
One blog -- and the mainstream media will follow -- already has the Attorney-General, who announced the decree, "admitting unreported threatening calls, bomb threats and Government Ministers lives at risk. Crime Free Fiji? This sounds like a resistance movement." Nonsense, of course, but no less lethal when read by the like-minded and gullible.