Disinformation #3. Bainimarama "Fiddles while Rome Burns"
Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.
My first two Disinformation exposures were from Coup4.5. In #1 a trio of the Chief Justice and the Shameem sisters had met secretly on New Year's Day at the Macau Hotel in Nadi to plan their draft Constitution and the Dialogue procedures. All three deny the meeting and one sister was overseas at the the time of the alleged meeting. My exposure was published on March 23rd.
In #2 Coup4.5 revealed a Muslim plot under the heading "Muslim Network Stealing iTaukei Land." The PM had allegedly given Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum a "carte blanche to create the Land Bank, which quickly established a new system of rules to abolish the Native Land Trust Board and allow 'the State' exclusive proprietorship..." So now, "Khaiyum and his power circle ... have their eye on Fijian land. To achieve his goal, Khaiyum has had to remove the bureaucracy in the land tenure systems to allow more flexible provisions favouring foreign investments.(He) has now not only eliminated Native Title Rights but has empowered the Muslim Network considerable powers to legitimatise its actions to govern Fiji indefinitely."
One has come to expect this sort of nonsense from Coup4.5. They earlier had Bainimarama at death's door and the military arrest both Bainimarama and Khaiyum. When I checked this story with a Fiji contact he said Bainimarama was out of the country and he had just seen Khaiyum. Coup4.5 has never once withdrawn these stories or admitted they were were wrong.
Now it's FijiToday's turn
Until recently, I had considerable respect for the moderate anti-Bainimarama blog FijiToday. They were critical and put a negative twist all almost all their news from Fiji. In reporting the current flood situation, for example, they say police leadership was responsible for the unpreparednees, prisoners and not enough soldiers were being used in the clean up, people were left in the evacuation centres with no food, and one hotelier said police would not come to the aid of his tourist guests. The blogsite however, does provide information and occasionally publishes "good" news. The one thing they did not do was engage in serious disinformation but that seems to have changed recently.
Bainimarama can't fit into helicopter
The first sign of worse to come was their report that Bainimarama had not used a helicopter to inspect the damage because he couldn't fit in his large security escort.
Bainimarama "fiddles while Rome burns"
This was followed by a story that the PM, Cabinet and senior army officers were partying, like the Roman Emperor Nero, while "Rome burned" or, in this case, Nadi flooded. "This was happening," they wrote, " as the people around Fiji were calling for help and the senior officers were getting laid (sic!) and drunk at the Presidents House." The party-goers were reported to have caused $2,500 worth of damage.
What actually happened?
As with most disinformation there was an element of truth. The "party" was in fact a cocktail party for the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders hosted by the acting President in the absence of the President who was in Tonga for the King George Tupou V's funeral. It was a formal state occasion. No one was obviously drunk and there was no riotous smashing of glasses and furniture. A toast was proposed by the acting President. No speech was made by the PM who had been drinking water for the first hour and was most certainly not drunk. The Nadi flooding was reported at 5am on Saturday morning, some hours after the "party" had finished.
I doubt FijiToday made any efforts to verify their story. They wanted bad news and they got it. Their disinformation is in the implied debauchery and callousness of the Bainimarama government. An official and rather staid gathering becomes a riotous party. A toast by one person becomes a drunken toast of the PM. A flood is re-timed to fit a story.
As noted in the Disinformation #1 posting, "A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole."
Police in disarray
FijiToday has now published another disinformation article which names three senior police officers sent on leave while being investigated for corruption and a further four who will be "sacked shortly" for various alleged offences, mainly plotting against the government. Once again, a mixing of some truth with much conjecture.
The big claim this time is that the Police Commissioner is about to be axed and given the "diplomatic posting in Asia region which was advertised this month." This seems strange. The Police Commissioner accompanied the PM on his inspection of flood damage last week and they seemed on the best of terms.
But we will wait and see, hoping that if proved wrong FijiToday will have the honesty to retract their story. Meanwhile, the disinformation is serving its purpose showing the police force to be corrupt, incompetent, and generally anti-Bainimarama.
I am sad FijiToday has chosen to make political capital out of a national disaster, and hope they will not make disinformation a regular feature. If they do, they will have joined Coup4.5 and lost much of their credibility. Their special contribution, as "moderate" critics whose news and opinions are noted by moderate people. is at risk. And all moderate contributions will be even more needed in the coming months.