China Rolls On, EU Rolls Back, Chaudhry, Tiger Woods, Some Hard Questions on the Media

WELCOME TO OCTOBER AND A NEW WEEK.There are several new features in the right sidebar this week: a new Quote for the Week (that the PM should recognize) and three videos-- two patriotic songs and an an old interview with 'the Man.' The Countdown clock shows there are still about 1,440 days to the elections.  You should also check out the Weekend Reading if you missed it. Your comments, of course, are welcome as usual but no more anonymous comments, please, if you wish to have them published.

PERSONAL ATTACKS AND RACISM. In making your comments, remember that while criticizing a person's statements or known position is a perfectly acceptable means of debate, attacking the person and not their statement, is not. Similarly criticizing someone who happens to be of a different race or culture is not racism, but attacking the person because he or she is of that race or culture, and writing stereotypal derogatory remarks about the person's race or culture,  most definitely is.

CHINA'S AMBASSADOR Han Zhiqiang said he appreciates Fiji's adherence to the one-China policy and support for their country's reunification process. Addressing the reception last Wednesday to mark the 61st anniversary of the founding of the PRC, Han said China supports Fiji's economic and social progress and is willing to provide assistance to Fiji without political conditions.

"Urgent disaster relief donation after cyclones last year, Chinese government scholarships, on-going projects like Navua Hospital and low-cost housing are all examples of China's helping hands toward Fiji," he said. During the first half of 2010, nearly 8,000 Chinese tourists visited Fiji,an increase of 32% on 2009.

EU: "LACK OF PROGRESS." The European Union, as expected, has extended its sanctions against Fiji for another six months "in order to assist [sic!] the country's return to democracy, respect of human rights and the rule of law." It is unclear how the suspension of EU money to assist the ailing sugar industry and the thousands of Fiji citizens affected will benefit from this ongoing action that has seen the cancellation of  sugar allowances, to which Fiji is entitled, since 2007 and no new funds from the 10th European development fund. Ordinary Fijians, one suspects, are far more concerned about the   "fundamental right" to work and earn enough to support their families that the supposed absence of "fundamental freedoms" used by the EU to explain its actions.

There is one concession: "Given the deteriorating economic and social situation and in particular a significant increase in poverty, the EU is currently examining possibilities for direct support to vulnerable populations, not channelled through the Fijian government." In other words, they will help ameliorate a situation that they have helped  cause.  It's a help, of course, but direct assistance to the sugar industry  would help far more. And if it went via government, what harm is there in this? The military won't be hitting heads with candy sticks.

Some would see their action as international solidarity against a rogue regime;  others a string of carriages (Forum, EU,Commonwealth)  pulled by Australian and New Zealand trains on a collision course with Fijian livelihoods.

Hardly had I typed this, than Kevin Rudd's office came out with, "Australia, along with New Zealand and the rest of the international community, remains resolute in calling for a prompt return to democracy and the rule of law in Fiji." There's no doubt about which is the train and which the "rest."  There's little doubt also, if this attitude persists, that it will do irretrievable damage to Australia's reputation in Fiji. Unless, of course, Australia can engineer a counter-coup! 

CHAUDHRY IN CUSTARDY
. Sorry for the pun but he does seem to welcome confrontation. Reports  in the "heavily censored" Fiji media  indicate that former PM and FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry spent the weekend in custody after being arrested on Friday for holding a public meeting in Rakiraki without a permit, which is a breach of the Public Emergency Regulations. He is expected to appear in court today.

THE TIGER WOODS STORY AND FIJI. "The massive disillusionment over Tiger Woods's womanising is based on the widespread error that information conveyed through the media, often shaped by stars and their handlers, is reliable and comprehensive." -- NZ Listener 2-8 October, p.22. Read on ...
The Media, Some Hard Questions and the 
'Dictatorship of the Publishitariat'

Playing Devil's Advocate
 Crosbie Walsh

Speaking at 2010 Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) conference in Auckland on Friday, the keynote speaker, well known and respected Tongan media publisher and media freedom activist  'Eakalafi Moala, said, "Press freedom in the Pacific Islands is under constant threat" while "New Zealand journalists ..took freedom of the press for granted."

He said threats to Pacific media freedom were due not only to "government blocking" (he was especially critical of Fiji's Media Decree, where, incidentally, the Fiji Broadcasting Commission reported his speech!) but also to "the social and cultural fabric of the local community" that accepted Government actions less critically than in Western countries. "Media freedom," he said, "operated more easily within a Western-educated social structure and conduct.”

Taken at face value, most would agree. But I wonder. Is it as straightforward as this?  In an ideal world, would press freedom always prevail? Or, to play devil's advocate, should it ever prevail? What, exactly, is media freedom? Can a case be made that restrictions should be placed on the media in some situations? What are those situations? 'Eakalafi talked of cultural constraints in the Pacific but are there no cultural or other constraints in Western societies?

How free, really, is the New Zealand media? Does it truly provide access to information the people need to know? Who decides what we will read and hear and how it is presented? Who decides the news? I'm reluctant to write about Fiji again in this context, but when did the NZ media last report a contrary view on the situation there? How have they helped to explain what is happening, and why?  How do they decide who to interview?  Do  they ever verify their stories? 

One can also ask what is meant by information when so much of what we see is sensationalism and trivia. What real balance exists in their coverage? Even media people ask what's happened to investigative journalism.We've never before had so much access to information, but we've also never has access to so much wrong or useless information.  Sometimes I ask, do I know more about any matter of consequence because of the media, or am I merely more misinformed? And then I ask myself about the supposed role of the media in a democracy and what it actually does.

Who really is this freedom for?  I am not an advertiser or a shareholder in the media.  I don't vote for their Boards or sit on their appointment committees. I have no say whatsoever in what they choose to publish or not to publish.  I am not part of the media or any other establishment. I cannot vote them out with a letter to the editor or an appeal to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

When it comes down to the hard questions, we should ask how significantly different are the NZ and Pacific media? Different masters, different circumstances and different stories, but  I suspect that whoever pays the piper still calls the tune. My only freedom is the choice to switch off the TV and radio and not read the newspapers. Sometimes, not always of course, I wonder how they dare claim a special, elevated place -- the Fourth Estate -- in a democracy when their power is more akin to a "dictatorship of the publishitariat."

Freedom of the media, by the media, for the media? An overstatement, perhaps. But by how much?

Comments

Cornileus said…
"How free, really, is the New Zealand media? Does it truly provide access to information the people need to know?"

Exactly, Croz.

At least, in Fiji, you know the media are muzzled to a degree, but you lot in Oz and NZ, for starters, not to mention further afield are only allowed to read/watch what the MSM think you should be privvy to.

If it doesn't suit their agenda, then, tough. You won't hear about it.

I would rather our variety of media censorship than the variety inflicted on you in a so-called free and democratic society.

On a recent visit to NZ, I was amazed at the level of ignorance about Fiji. I was also amazed at the level ignorance about other issues pertaining to things more global in nature.

"Who decides what we will read and hear and how it is presented? Who decides the news?"

You've hit the nail on the head. And who do the politicians listen to? The voters, who are propagandized to follow the media's (or media mogul's) agenda, that's who!

So who's running the country?

Not the politicians.

Democracy at work?
Radiolucas said…
The media can often be its own worst enemy. It is hard to defend inaccurate or viciously partisan reporting or celebrity trash which often passes for news in many newspapers, magazines and television networks.

But no systems in society can be successful in the long term by punishing the good for the sins of the bad. The control and ban of free speech and assembly cannot work in the long term in a free society.

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

Furthermore, replacing any criticism with unabashed admiration, in spite of the obvious truth, drives criticism underground, to the street corner, to the bar room table, to the internet.

As Ugandan Human Rights activist Mutabazi Sam Stewart colourfully puts it: “Suppressing the media is like drowning a balloon under the sea. It will always come back to the surface.”

I would say the responsibility is on all of us to defend our right to information, whether good or bad, and our right to decide for ourselves, what we may choose to believe, not what we are told.
Jake said…
Suffices to say lies breeds opinions and as such opinions more often than not are lies most lies are transmitted through the lack of contradistinguishing.

Now I than ask you what is the purpose of lying?

Most will go to great lengths to justify their lies while others are glad to justify their very existence but what is of concern are people with limited grey matter because they are just pawns in the greater schemes of things.
sara'ssista said…
Again the attack is on the media, anyone would think the coup in this country was purportedly devised to address media issues. No it wasn't, it was devised for other means and the media, again is in the middle being criticised for not being positive about the coup culture and accountability for this regime to it's own people. This regimes own media unit are the very last ones to know what is happening and even then their first move is to attack anyone with a contrary view, rather like politics really isn't it?? PER has hardly servied this country or it's military regime well at all really, but you won't hear the appologists claim that, they will say keep it forever were doin just fine.All we want is sports news and potholes, thanks.
I actually agree with what the PM said…
@ our self appointed PM (see quote of the week)

Dear PM,

I could not agree more with what you say. "..that we must recognize that meaningful dialogue is essential – within our respective countries, within our respective regions and in the world as a whole...." (PM Bainimarama to UNGA Sept 2010.)

However there seems to be a massive gap between what you say and what you do ? You allow no dialogue in Fiji. You have actively moved to shut down any conversation by way of a PER which continues long after it you promised us and the UN it would be lifted. You engage no one and you actively work to suppress any who may a view different to yours and often anyone who has a view at all.

We need to do more than just "recognise" the importance of dialogue. We need to START DIALOGUE !

Mr PM, having made such thoughtful comments to the UN and the world could I kindly ask you start practicing what you preech while overseas. You could start here today in Fiji by removing the PER. You could start next week by outlining your plans for a credibe dialogue process and you could actually start that dialogue within a month.

Please - less grand statements and more action.
Sugar minister please stand up said…
Remind me again who the sugar minister is and when we are going to hear from him on the removal of the Chairman and CEO (sorry resignation). Actually when are we going to hear anything from the sugar minister on sugar ?
M.B.N said…
I just don't understand these arguments that because the media in AU or NZ or elsewhere is not perfect we should ZERO media freedom in Fiji.
March of Folly said…
No, No and No again! No to endless Sports News, no to potholes and an ever diminishing water supply, no to the endless corrupt actions of just about every institution or profession existing in Fiji. No to the Police who refuse to turn up to face taxpayers "Who pay them" at a Crime Prevention meeting in Nadi this very evening. The Fiji taxpayers pay them.......just think about that! "Salus Populi Suprema est Lex". Think about that too. The Welfare of the People is the highest law! That was written by the Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero forty odd years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Have we learned anything of value since? "O tempora, 0 mores"! What times! What habits!

Yes, Cicero knew a thing or two about human mores. Did we know that in Fiji today the most common cause of death among young Fijians is........maternal death? What a truly shocking fact that is. Let each and every one of us absorb this - every minute of every day. This is where we are now. Our young women die - too young to be pregnant and too ignorant and uncared for to safely give birth.
Shame on us all! Shame on Rabuka! Shame on Chaudhry! Shame on Qarase! For without a doubt, this is the Fiji you created and the daily toll of lives lost continues apace. The Pacific Forum and all who sail in it are also to be held accountable for this shocking, scandalous state of affairs. Is it any wonder that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is moving swiftly to force a change of policy and pace? It is Mrs Clinton who will turn the tide of folly and self-slaughter. Engagement with Fiji is now urgent and must take place without any further delay. Let all those who stood or stand in the way, step aside!
sara'ssista said…
@M.B.N , I quite agree , simply pointing out the imperfect nature of freedom elsewhere is hardly an excuse for zero freedoms from the threat of military intervention. And the audacity of turning to even more ruthless military/communist regimes for some support and reassurance is laughable.Aus and NZ have to havea relationship with china too but we hardly see them as a friendly nation and hardly take cues from them as to how to treat our people. At p[resent I feel the fijian judiciary is more like china's then any western example. We have yet to hear about the consequences of a judge that rules for whatever reason against the militray what will be the consequence of this?? or will there be a militray presenc ein the court room to guide the learned judge. Or maybe they just ignore any ruling, then what ??
Radiolucas said…
@ sara'ssista

If there was another ruling against them, they would do what they have always done - ignore it and recreate a legal fiction to serve their own purposes.

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