Rakiraki a Town, Abuse of Media, Suits for Chiefs, Phone Registration

(o) RAKIRAKI DECLARED A TOWN. Sporadic attempts since 1930 to make Rakiraki a town have finally borne fruit. In making the declaration yesterday, the PM said the new status could mean more economic activities and make the town  "pivotal in the development of the Ra province," especially when the sealing of Kings Highway is completed. This, together with Queens Road that runs from Suva to Lautoka,  will provide a sealed road all round Viti Levu. Rakiraki's population at the 2007 census was 4952, much higher than Tavua and Levuka towns.

.  "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 SunThe 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.


Oversensitive said…
Croz, I had a look at Michael McKenna's piece and can't quite understand what you're on about. Are there any errors of fact? No. And on that basis, your quibble about language seems overly defensive to say the least. The words are rapier sharp, as you'd expect, but don't seem to me to be outside the bounds of accepted journalistic practice. News Limited has declared in successive stories on the Fiji Times that it owns the paper. But this was a story about Sharon Smith Johns so I hardly think it was necessary to reveal the link again. It's best that you reserve your ire for more blatant cases of manipulation and factual error. Because by honing in on such an anodyne piece as this, you simply risk reinforcing your reputation as a apologist for the regime. Or perhaps you're inclined to be chivalrous towards the lady herself? I'm sure Sharon Smith Johns knew the pitfalls of taking the job she did and what would happen when the Australian media cottoned onto the fact.. If you take the job of the regime's "chief censor", then you're bound to be censured yourself. We all know News is coming after Fiji and I'll wager this is just the start. But you'll need to find a better example of alleged bias than this.
Croz Walsh said…
David Reynolds commented on your note "Rakiraki a Town, Abuse of Media, Suits for Chiefs, Phone Registration":

"Phone registration should have happened years ago. To get an abusive phone call traced is almost impossible, procedures to follow and neither the police nor the phone suppliers want to know.

It ought to be possible to transfer your phone number from one company to another but it is not. People change their sim cards like they change their underwear leading to confusion and it being impossible to trace a call. This is not good and the system has been abused for a long time."

Reply to this email to comment on this note.

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Red Dragon said…
@ Oversensitive

You need to be reminded clearly and unequivocally: terrorism was waged within Fiji. The footprints of terror endure a long time and the threats and echoes of the past come back to haunt us on a regular basis. How trite and petty you sound in your prevarication. Processes and procedures in place to obviate further incidents are required and justified and would be considered normal anywhere else with a history of four political upheavals. The UK has just seen 28 days remand installed for anyone held on suspicion of terrorism. PM Gordon Brown tried but failed to get it. No fooling with PM David Cameron's Government. That is as it should be. The wages for waging terror will be unequivocal response: no confusion, no perplexity, no quandary therefore no impunity.
Oversensitive and underwhelmed said…
Red Dragon, are you chasing the dragon, as they used to say in another age? None of what you've written here relates in any way to what I said. I might be trite and petty but at least launch an attack on me that makes sense. I've got absolutely no idea what you're on about.
TheMax said…
@ Anyone who dare to listen

I have been working in the telecom industry in Fiji for the past 21 years. That is even before it became deregulated and even before cellular/mobile phones entered the market.

It had always been the normal process in Fiji when applying for a fixed telephone line to submit all your personal details to the service provider. This is the same requirement the new media decree is asking for this time around. When cellular telephone service was introduced in Fiji by Telecom Fiji through it's subsidiary Vodafone, the same thing was required because they initially began with Postpaid phones. Only when Prepaid phones was introduced later, a few years after postpaid mobile phones, that registration of a user's personal information was not required.

Because of terrorism, the world has learned over time that there is definitely a need to register all telephone users especially for cellular/mobile phone users. This is because, terrorists are slipping the net of law enforcement with ease because of the mobility with which they use their telephone to communicate.

The new telephone user registration decree is simply restoring the same usual requirement that was used in Fiji from the time telephone services began. The former Post and Telecom dept was doing it before deregulation, Vodafone was using it when they initially began and really it should have carried on.
daucina said…
@ Oversensitive and underwhelmed

This is no time or place to be either oversensitive or underwhelmed. There is a job to do. That job demands full attention - what is generally called vigilance - and considerable application. In the area of the Media made manifest in Fiji, the ongoing requirement is just that. If a lady of the Minister of Information's background is prepared to step up and fill a most important role, good for her. No doubt she may have some insight into the mindset of those who have sought quite deliberately to render the task of governance more difficult not less. The day will arrive when this will be viewed with clarity. That day is perhaps closer than it may appear?
TheMax said…
@ Croz

"This is the same requirement the new media decree is asking for this time around."

Media decree should have been the Telephone Registration decree.

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