The Fiji Times, the Chaudhry Government and the Speight Coup: an Analysis
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.
The full thesis, 200 pages plus, may be downloaded through this link. -- Croz