The Fiji Times, the Chaudhry Government and the Speight Coup: an Analysis


By Thakur Ranjit Singh

On 15th December 2011, I graduated with Masters in Communication Studies (MCS) with Honours from Auckland University of Technology (AUT). My thesis was based on Speight’s coup of 2000 on Chaudhry government.

My choice of thesis was not very difficult, because as a former Publisher of the Daily Post newspaper, I was aware that sections of Fiji media were not fair to Chaudhry’s government. I wanted that to be substantiated by a comprehensive and in-depth content analyses of the Fiji Times (hereafter referred to as FT) during one-year rule of Chaudhry government. 

The analysis showed that FT projected Chaudhry as an “Indian” government which could not be trusted to safeguard the interests of the Fijians. It failed to inform the common people about the safeguards enshrined in the 1997 Constitution which stipulates that no Prime Minister, at his own whim, could implement any changes affecting native land and laws protecting the rights of the indigenous people. FT also allowed a free access and voice to those opposing the government and did not edit treasonable, seditious and hate-speech that were seen as derogatory to others in any civilised democracy or civilised media. 

It appeared that FT had a policy of highlighting the negatives and subduing the positives of Chaudhry government. It presented the government in a bad light, and effectively painted it as dishonest, untrustworthy, corrupt and undeserving as a government led by a “non-believer” and a womaniser.
While Chaudhry himself was also responsible for democracy’s downfall, FT hastened and helped the process. While FT helped create such an atmosphere that was ripe for the removal of the government from means other than democratic, contributory factors from Chaudhry’s style of leadership hastened the process and discouraged any uprising in support of democracy. Had Chaudhry been able to build bridges, especially with the Fijian community and its institutions, such huge support for Speight and the ethno-nationalist elements may not have materialised. 

All the good things about media being a uniting force were rarely seen in FT. If anything, FT lived to its colonial reputation of being anti-Indian since it was established in 1869. While no proof has come to light to substantiate allegations that some sections of the business community contributed to the fall of the People’s Coalition Government, this research indicates enough motives for that to be so and why the business community wished to see Chaudhry go.

The earlier studies on FT have indicated that despite the passage of time, the partisan approach of the newspaper in favour of the elite class has not changed. Times have changed. Even the elites have changed; from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR), the British government and the colonial Europeans to the indigenous Eastern Fijian chiefs, the Fijian elites and the Indian business community. What has not changed is the credibility of the Propaganda Model which remained steadfast in giving credence to Herman and Chomsky’s (2008) theory on how the media becomes, and in case of FT, continues to be a sympathiser and mouthpiece of the elites, at the cost of its watchdog role.

 ---o0o---

The full thesis, 200 pages plus,  may be downloaded through this link.  -- Croz
http://www.mediafire.com/?2m2xcbs325upe2w

Comments

yea yea said…
So it was all the Fiji Times fault. How do you then explain Chaudry's complete failure in the new military government where race is not a issue ? And those secret millions ?
Ram Sami said…
I read Singh's thesis with considerable interest. It is very well written and backed up by excerpts from Fiji's toilet paper, Fiji Times.
Anonymous said…
You are right Yea, Yea...it is the Fiji Times' fault. Instead of throwing red herrings, go, find and read the other available literature if you still need convincing.

Russell Hunter, Netani Rika and Margaret Wise clearly had a vendetta against Chaudhry and used their positions to get back at him.

The Fiji times campaign relentless. Hunter, Rika and Wise would have celebrated and congratulated themselves when Chaudhry was toppled - let's not try and fool each other about this; the trio were after Mahen's blood; no two ways about it.

Wise lived and breathed Chaudhry stories. How was this allowed when she was in a relationship with Rabuka, the man toppled by Chaudhry? Rika and Hunter have a lot to answer for.

Their pontification about media rights and ethics and prancing on the international stage is nauseating, to say the least. The hypocrisy makes one want to puke.

To top it all, Margret Wise was re-employed by the Fiji Times! As the saying goes, only in Fiji.

No one should deny Chaudhry's shortcoming as a leader and his thievery. He is an abysmal failure and he needs to be brought to account for it.

But this should cannot be used to whitewash the shameful and unethical behavior of Hunter, Wise and Rika. These three have stained the name of The Fiji Times. This is their legacy and this is how it should be recorded, never mind the futile attempts by the likes of yea yea to divert attention away.
Anonymous said…
USE THIS CORRECTED VERSION PLEASE:

You are right Yea, Yea...it is the Fiji Times' fault. Instead of throwing red herrings, go, find and read the other available literature if you still need convincing.

Russell Hunter, Netani Rika and Margaret Wise clearly had a vendetta against Chaudhry and used their positions to get back at him.

The Fiji times campaign was relentless. Hunter, Rika and Wise would have celebrated and congratulated themselves when Chaudhry was toppled - let's not try and fool each other about this; the trio were after Mahen's blood; no two ways about it.

Wise lived and breathed Chaudhry stories. How was this allowed when she was in a relationship with Rabuka, the man toppled by Chaudhry? Rika and Hunter have a lot to answer for.

Their pontification about media rights and ethics and prancing on the international stage is nauseating, to say the least. The hypocrisy makes one want to puke.

To top it all, Margret Wise was re-employed by the Fiji Times! As the saying goes, only in Fiji.

No one should deny Chaudhry's shortcoming as a leader and his thievery. He is an abysmal failure and he needs to be brought to account for it.

But this cannot be used to whitewash the shameful and unethical behavior of Hunter, Wise and Rika. These three have stained the name of the Fiji Times. This is their legacy and this is how it should be recorded, never mind the futile attempts by the likes of yea yea to divert attention.
Anonymous said…
The vaunted Thakur has obviously done it again; this is a sterling piece of work that was absolutely needed to make better sense of the demonization process, destabilization and final overthrow of the Chaudhry government in 2000. It is all the more useful because it touches on the fact that the whole democratic process, one of the cornerstones of which is the media, was taken over by a group that was well on the way to playing the absolute power-play in Fiji - many from this same group that are now stridently calling for coup-free democracy in Fiji. Of course, their type of democracy would be coup-free up to a point – until they lose or their supporters break away. They can’t see this right now; that’s the saddest part of the whole saga.
Coming back to Thakur’s honours thesis, there are 3 points I wish to raise. One, why were so many rules of media reporting being overlooked to simply allow Margaret Wise to pour her poison into the public mind? This continued even after Chaudhry and Ganesh Chand had pointed her out before Speight made his move. Her vitriol continued after the coup when she couldn’t choose between following up the hottest news story in the region and refusing the side dishes that went with it within the parliamentary complex – there are many stories that came out of the complex with the thugs about those side-shows. Margaret was rated pretty high there.
Two, Netani Rika had a public reputation and he tried hard to live up to it. But the fact that he turned a blind eye to Margaret Wise weighs heavily against him. This is like allowing the left arm to punch below the belt repeatedly while pretending to punch above with the right arm. Rika thus was complicit and should not be allowed to regain the image that he must surely lose with this report. In fact, I wonder why I was supporting him when the Bainimarama regime had him painted black.
Three, Chaudhry must cop much of the blame for his inability to succeed in a fundamental human endeavour – the ability to talk across disagreements and establish a rapport. Isn’t that what distinguishes us from other animals; isn’t that why we’re considered intelligent? Well Chaudhry kept on alienating sections of the (mainly) Fijian community until he had provided enough fodder for them to feel justified ganging up and marching against him.
So, yes Fiji was unfortunate to have gotten the wrong Indo-Fijian as PM. He didn’t understand things Fijian, he appeared not to be concerned about things Fijian, and he didn’t see the importance of dialogue even when trying to achieve economic miracles for the country. This allowed greed, fear, resentment, etc. to gather fuel as Fiji once-again felt the wave of ethnic animosity from the I Taukei. You will note that this sentiment didn’t have the same strength in 2000 as it did in 1987. This is because race has steadily lost its political use value in Fiji. Chaudhry gave it a brief new life in 1999-2000.
Vinaka Thakur – keep up the good work.
Anonymous said…
The Fiji Times had a free run since its inception in being partial towards the colonists and later the iTaukei aristocracy that included the Chiefs. It nurtured and fertilized racism in Fiji and it was obvious but no one dared to confront it, including the infamous leaders of the Indo-Fijian community leaders that included some of the best lawyers and yet they did not have the courage to highlight the infamy of the Fiji Times in persistently being racist and divisive and yet it prospered on support it received from the Indo-Fijian businesses and readership. Len Usher as the editor of the Fiji Times communicated dircectly with the Buckingham Palace on constitutional talks and worked very hard to protect the interests of remnants of the colonists in that formed the core of the Fijian Government with Ratu Mara as Prime Minister after independence that included Barret, Stinson, Brown, Falvey and others. Thakur has exposed in a way that the Fiji Times cannot defend itself. The harm it has done in race relations in Fiji is unforgivable and the people of Fiji should boycott this paper because of the pain and suffering it caused to the people of Fiji. If Margaret Wise is still employed by the Fiji Times there should a people's revolt against this publication. Unless such journalists are exposed and punished, the image of journalists will not improve.
ingsh said…
And how will the complete censorship of any alternative view help us move forward ? As it stand the Fiji Times and all news in Fiji is at a low point (and thats saying something). All we get is pro military propaganda.

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