What is to be the Media's New Role?

Prof Subramani, Chairman of MIDA, the Media Industry Development Authority that was established under the Media Decree to monitor and work with the media industry,  says the media has to build up trust in order to win the freedom it is asking for, and trust is gradually won through performance.

Readers familiar with the biased and sensational reporting of the past, most particularly by the Fiji Times, know that Fiji's media often promoted divisions and distrust in an already divided Fiji.  They will not be surprised at that MIDA has urged the media to redefine its priorities in the context of their developmental role, and find alternatives to conventional goals and practices. The media, says MIDA,  needs to be at the forefront of nation-making, and work for progress towards a truly pluralistic and modern Fiji.

The example of the overseas business-owned media that in the name of media freedom decides what is reported —and what is not— so long as it sells is not a model for Fiji at this time.  Been there.  Done that.  The media was part of Fiji's problem. Prof Subramani wants it to be part of the solution.  Whether a sensible balance can be struck between media freedom and media responsibilities is yet to be seen.  It's a tightrope the media must tread, and it is part of MIDA's mandate to ensure it does not fall off.

Meanwhile, taking its lead from the PM who has urged people to take part in radio talkback shows, one  hopes MIDA will encourage more thoughtful feature articles and discussion  on Fiji's present state and future.  The country's print media at present is so dull and uninspiring it is unlikely to foster anything, certainly not nation-building.

Footnote: To anticipate some readers' likely negative comments, could I ask that thought be given to how the Fiji media, at this time, can juggle freedom and responsibility, and avoid both the dearth of responsibility in the past and the dearth of freedom at present?


Anonymous said…
...so I assume the media are still not allowed to publish any critism of the PM or the RFMF ? They must only sing the praise of Frank and the PER stays in place anyway ? If government had no intention of lifting the PER why all the effort and expense of MIDA. By the way how much development have they done to date ?

Flag raising and pledge making are all very good but when the countries leader came to power by guns and force and decided to stay on despite his government being declared illegal it is never going to be the 'role model' Fiji needs. Maybe we needed change but the thugs that made that change can't be expected to held in high regard to they face up to their crimes.
rumbical said…
you may as well say the Media has to "please government" and then they might be given some flexibility.

Imagine if the media had worked hard to please the previous government. That certainly would not have helped to expose any of thier cracks.

If the media has to serve this government won't all governments expect the same. And if thats the case won't future government mistakes and problems also be covered up ?

Sorry the whole model just does not make sense to me.
swedish dish said…
Silly me, I though the role of the new media was to shield the public from any truth that might paint the regiem poorly, speak only positive things about the self appointed dictactor and talk up sport ?

If they have a wider role than this they are not doing it.

What about your own blog Croz, which you spend many hours dedicated too. How would you feel if you where told all negative or critical comments on government had to be removed ? Would you still bother ?
sara'ssista said…
5 years on still naval gazing and trying to brow beat the media. It is not as if anything worthwhile is allowed to be printed or reported anyaway. Given that this regime may well enjoy the PER until after 2014 , i don't exactly see the point of the media council. Are the media simply not celebrating the government press releases enogh??
Alter Ego said…
Anyone noticed how the Fiji Times website has been down for a few days?
Two way street said…
Trust is a two way street. I have no trust in the regime and ceretainly no trust in Subramani and the media control authority. I strongly believe the price Fiji will pay for suppression of the free media and freedom of speech will be very high indeed. Repression has been tried before in a number of sad situations - and all we have are endless examples where it has failed miserably.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Alter Ego ... Fiji Times say it's due to technical changes. See NEWS. Reasonably routine. Nothing to be concerned about — yet.
Anonymous said…

I think government has to take the first steps. They need to acknowlege that alternate views exist even if they disagree with them. They need to acknowlege that they came to power by way of a coup, that military force is the key to their power and that they have broken (they could say revised ?) many of their original promises. They should stop the pretence that they are only acting under a presidents mandate or that they where forced to take over government. They should acccept the term 'interim government', 'interim PM etc'. They can't go on pretending that everything is normal and they are 100% legitimate. They should publishg a detailed roadmap and start work immediately on returning Fiji to democracy. The date for elections can stay as 2014 but work should start now. Then even detractors could at least accept them as change agents and temporary. It is unrealistic for this government to be held in the high regard they desire. You can no more preach the evil of past coups and carry one out yourself than have cry about murders then commit one yourself.

Having said all that I think people will pardom them if they do what they say they are about and real change is achieved. Pardon is different to celebrate. Even some of the biggest detractors might get behind this government if they know 100% they will have a fair election in 2014, that the military will retreat and that no one is this government will stand for election. If Frank promised to also retire from the military that might also help.

Sorry a bit off the topic but it got me thinking.
Changed needed within to change Fiji said…
Tough one trying to add positive comment to this posting. Over the last 2 years I have seen a government/military that have given up any pretence of being prepared to work within rule, negotiate, listen or be flexible in any way. Their complete silencing of the media (and critics full stop) suggests they deeply desire regonition and praise and where fed up with not getting it. Perhaps they really beleive they are doing the right thing, berhaps they really beleive they no better (RFMF) than everyone else.

Relaxing media controls would help but what is really needed is a fundamental shift in the attitude of government. Do they want to work with the people or not ? Do they value diverse opinion or not ? Do they have all the answers or not ?
Prewi said…
There is a fundamental issue here. Does the media have to serve the Fiji government and pander to its vision ? That seems to be what MIDA is suggesting. Surely it is governments role to sell its vision. The media should give them a resonable amount of space to do that by interviewing them and seeking comment. Government need to play their part by making themselves available.

When was the last time anyone in Fiji was able to interview the PM. Even when he delivers the budget as finance minister no one is allowed to ask him a question.

The media in Fiji can only develop when it is allowed to develop. The current government seems to have no desire to see a free media. They worry it will hurt their image and egos.
A few questions for the PM said…
Can the PM promise that if people take part in talkback and say something negative about his government that they won't be dragged up to the barracks ? That would be a good start.

Perhaps the PM could take part in talkback himself. I for one would love to hear him answer some simple questions like
-Why has the PER not been lifted
-When will it be lifted now
-Why has the promised dialogue not happened
-How come so many military men are now in civil roles
-Will he run in the 2014 election
-Why does he spend so much time overseas
-How is the economy going

By the way I don't think these are hard questions and a skilled leader would be able to answer them well.
Where is the problem? said…
In your footnote you seem to indicate the media is the problem? At the moment, yes - as it is just dribbling out regime propaganda rubbish. Prior to the coup - no problem in my view. The problem in Fiji is the military. It desperately needs leadership that truly understands the role of the military. Without freedom we have nothing? And it is the military that takes away our freedom?
Imprimatur said…
The role of a robust and realistic Media, a Media Industry which deserves and merits existence is this:

Diverse Opinion will always and must exist

This Opinion must be tested - daily

It must be tested for relevance to where we are now and where we must go next

TO achieve relevance, it must expose readers, listeners and viewers to as much controversial and intelligent opinion and analysis from elsewhere as possible - daily.

For too long in Fiji we have lived in a gold-fish bowl, ignorant of the outside world and of the demands of globalisation. The world IS round and it makes demands on us daily that may not be ignored. The Media must tell us this, help us to understand what is required of us within Fiji for survival.

No one is any longer 'untouchable' in this globalised world. Untouchable has many meanings and many applications. But you get our meaning? It is the duty of an intelligent and relevant Media to address this - daily.

People in Fiji must now educate themselves daily in Current Affairs which are local and global. The Price of Oil? The price of Gold? The Price of Silver? The value of the US Dollar on the Economist Hamburger Scale? What does a local hamburger cost in Fiji Dollars? If we are not interested in this, we do ourselves injustice.

The value of Democracy and a Constitution of Liberty? Worth going to war for? See Egypt versus Libya. See Yemen versus Bahrain. Think of the variations in response and why? Watch Syria -daily.

The Media must challenge us to do this and cease its loud and ridiculous advertisements which only encourage unsmart and silly behaviour. Life is a serious business. Survival is getting daily more challenging. Are we up to it? Including the organs of the Fiji Media themselves? We deserve the highest quality media in Fiji. Who is to tell us we do not?
Debates Doha-style Quarterly Live said…
Without more ado the DOHA DEBATES formula should be encouraged to take place within Fiji quarterly. This might be Multi-Media. People need to take part using a similar process of stating their argument, debating it and allowing audience participation. These debates should continue through to 2014. They ought and should be televised live. No delay. Preparation must commence towards democracy which is informed and educated democratic process. There is curently a vacuum and all vacuums are essentially waiting to be filled.
Cicero said…
@ Two way street.....

Suppression of the 'Free Media'. That's an interesting observation. Do you suppose or have evidence that the previous Media in Fiji were "free"? Because they most patently were not. Many media organs were permitted to follow a path of devious propaganda and suppression of the views of certain persons or certain ethnic groups. They were permitted this because their owners and their Managing Editors had subscribed to a particular political party and to its covert fund-raising machinery. So, what exactly was free about all this? It was consummately 'bought', manipulative and it entrenched racism and political clientelism, holding hostage anyone with contrary views or opinion. Now you complain about the 'status quo'? But the 'status quo ante' was equally insupportable and unjustly prejudicial to most aspects of good and proper national governance. Cartels and clientelism within the Media in a country as small and diverse as Fiji will, of necessity, distort the economic, social and political landscape. The role of the Media must be to encourage freedom of information, disseminate the flow of useful ideas, encourage the challenge and diversity of ideas: all within a climate of tolerance, intellectual vigour and equality for all citizens and residents. Creativity and imagination must be elicited and a vigorous debate brought forth with both courage and good faith in evidence. This is a Tall Order but not impossible to achieve if an intelligent posture is adopted with clear outcomes in view.
Imprimatur Redux said…
The role of the media to encourage investigative and independent reporting on all aspects of the human(e) experience:

Remember the DAILY POST? Now succumbed..... But how many of us recall the persecution meted out by the former Editor and Publisher of the Daily Post newspaper towards a particular member of their staff? Sufficient that Journalists Without Borders were obliged to take action and afford some respite. Would any of us choose to think carefully about how and why such conduct was allowed and was uncommented upon by either the FIJI TIMES or the FIJI SUN? What state of affairs would we believe was revealed by this? No Fiji TV coverage? No radio either? Yet, this was political persecution. It was real and it took place in a quasi-democratic Fiji without remark?
Anonymous said…
Fiji Times Online (Offline). Seems like FB wants the name changed to Offline. Why doesn't Fiji Times print why they are offline? Maybe we could get the start blogging here!

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