News and Comments Wednesday 28 November 2012

Fiji Times publisher Hank Arts, me, and editor Fred Wesley
FIJI TIMES PLEADS GENUINE MISTAKE. Lawyer John Apted  said the FijiTimes would print a front page apology for publishing a a story from NZ's Sunday Star Times that questioning the integrity of the judiciary. [Readers should be aware that while anyone can criticise a judicial judgement, no one anywhere can criticise the integrity of the judiciary without breaking the law.]

Apted explained that the deputy sports editor had reviewed the story and made a wrong decision as he was not aware of the legal implications.Following the incident, the newspaper has instituted further training and constant newsroom meetings.He said the rule of the newsroom now is that if you cannot get a story reviewed, leave it out of the paper. Apted said further steps are being taken to strengthen the system.He said that every day at 8pm, the general manager and the publisher are sent a list of stories with a summary.

The Fiji Times position was made more difficult because of its failure to attract staff at the editorial level and recent losses of senior people. Justice Callanchini said the systems should have been in place before this incident took place. Apted asked that the penalties should not be excessive and there should not be any imprisonment as this was a mistake by a third party.

Acting Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma asked the High Court to impose a $500,000 fine and six months imprisonment for  publisher Hank Arts and Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley.  Sharma said The Fiji Times ccommitted a similar offence in 2009 where they were fined $100,000. he said an appropriate penalty needs to be imposed on the company to ensure that it serves as a deterrent for would be offenders.The judgement will be delivered on notice by Justice Callanchini.

I think the judge should impose a notional fine, say $10,000 as Apted suggests, and move on. The evolving situation in Fiji calls for more freedom, and more responsible reporting, A significantly larger fine —and any imprisonment— will seem unnecessarily vindictive and be unhelpful as Fiji struggles to move forward.   Click this link for fuller Fiji Times coverage.  I will report on my interviews with the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun sometime soon.

HELLO FIJI. ARE YOU STILL THERE? At long last Fiji has resurfaced in the NZ media but guess what they have published? Radio NZInternational quotes the National President of the Farmers Union, Surendra Lal, on the proposed tax free zone along Kings Road from Korovou to Rakiraki, saying he doesn’t think there is much opportunity for huge developments. And Michael Field says the Fiji Government wants the Fiji Times Editor jailed for re-printing a story first published in New Zealand's Murdoch-owned Sunday Star-Times that claimed there was "no judiciary in Fiji and that the place was run by a military regime."

Not reported was  anything substantial on the Budget.  Or  Fiji's standing by the Kyoto Agreement on climate change, that NZ has all but abandoned.  Or that a prominent blogger was recently in Fiji and has some things to say contrary to those typically published in the NZ media. My golfing friends, thanks to old TV film footage, remain unconvinced  the military is not still occupying Suva. I'm sure, had I denounced Bainimarama or said anything to support  the false TV images, the phone would not have stopped ringing.  So much for media freedom and responsible reporting in NZ.

MILITARY YET TO GIVE SUBMISSION. Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Mohammed Aziz, says the submission will be given to the Constitution Commission and arrangements are being made. But why so late?The deadline for the submissions ended in early October, and the Commission is expected to complete its draft before Christmas. The draft will be presented to the President in early January before being put to the Constituent Assembly,

THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY. Government has said the composition of the assembly shall reflect the diversity of the people of Fiji and include but not limited to the government, registered political parties, faith-based organizations, employers representatives, trade unions, farmers and members of the rural community, the military, national organizations, women, persons with disability, youth, pensioners and other civil society groups.

Once approved by the Assembly, the document go to a tribunal that will consider whether the immunity provisions and other matters are contained in the draft. Within seven days of receipt of the draft constitution and the report of the tribunal, the Constituent Assembly shall make the necessary amendments in accordance with the report of the tribunal and shall present draft constitution back to the President.The new constitution shall come into effect on the day following the date of assent by the President, subject to any provision in the constitution that postpones this date.The work of the Constituent Assembly is expected to be completed by late March 2013.


Wati S said…
Would this 'mistake' be like immigration recently and 'innocently' detaining people at the airport, that sort of 'mistake'?? Or dragging people before the regime appointed courts and then withdrawing cases knowing they will fail? Recent sackings from the judidicary clearly doen't bother you at all. Even if there was a mistake by FijiTimes, they would still be ahead on points for a regime that admits no mistakes at all. Go for it, gaol an editor, then perhaps Croz then can explain what other countries do this and name them, it will be interesting company.
Shazzer Grubby said…
We have seen from the comments section Greg Bullard has been in touch with you.
We know you have met with the AG.

This puts you in a unique position. Why don't you ask questions of them both in writing about the Fiji judiciary and publish their answers.

It would give us all a balanced picture of the state of the judiciary in Fiji and we can make up our own minds.

I am sure the AG could waive the crime of contempt if you wrote Bullard's allegations in full
Anonymous said…
The military should not be allowed to make a submission at this stage. They should have made it 1) Within the timefram and importantly 2) Publicly so we all know exactly what their vission for the new constitution is.

I suspect the reason they have not domne this is because what they want will DEFINITELY be in the constituion and the process would be expossed as a farce if they where to publicly submit something with everyone else.

Also how much debate will there be if the military are in the room as part of the team who will decide in the end.
ha ha said…
Interesting that government never made a submission either. Perhaps they already know what is going to be in it.
Immunity question said…
So after the constitution is completed the military/government check it to make sure their immunity is rock solid ?

I'm OK with immunity for the coup itself (sadly its only way they will go) but it can't be a blanket immunity. If for example the PM is found to have wronly helped himself to back pay or has ordered people to be bashed he should face the law. likewise if he given shops to friends and family or abused travel privilages. And what about his private business dealings - surely he can't be immune from any crime over the past 6 years and before that ?
No immunity for treasonous thugs said…
There must be no immunity for thugs with guns that illegally took over a legitimate government. Those responsible must be brought before a real court (not those currently in Fiji under the human rights abusing corrupted junta) and face justice. All threats, intimidation, bashings and alleged murders by the military thugs must also be investigated and dealt with once the rule of law returns to Fiji.
Anonymous said…
There is always an agenda. It makes no sense to go after these guys for something nobody noticed.

Drive Motibhai out and his share value down to be picked up by brother FBcKhaiyum to keep the brotherhood safe for however long this Reich is going to last.
Cin Cin said…

Which part of 'media freedom' dictates that the media in NZ should consult you before they publish articles or commentary on Fiji? I'm not sure that your 'prominence' stretches that far.

Cin Cin
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Agree. The NZ media is under no "obligation" but some 3-4,000 people read this blog daily. Don't you find it strange that only one journalist has sought to question me on a ten day visit to Fiji during which I interviewed and talked with close to 30 prominent people of differing political persuasions? Especially when little more than a year ago they sought out my opinions. For the record, the one journalist who did contact me apologized saying he was sorry he could not publish my material.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Anonymous ... I understand what you are saying in your first sentence but what on earth are you talking about in the second sentence — a Hindu capitalist/Military Muslim/Nazi brotherhood?
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Shazzer ... I am confident the Fiji judiciary does not bow to state pressure. This has been demonstrated by the number of cases that have gone against the state. I did not discuss Greg with the AG and have chosen, for Greg's sake, not to comment on the issue. This is my prerogative. Please respect it and ask no more.
Shazzer Grubby said…
Then please tell me why so many senior judges and prosecutors make allegations of interference when they leave.

Do you not think it is at least having a discussion on this topic. In if senior judges made such allegations there would be a full blown inquiry into the matter.

The country will never attract investment if Justice is not seen to be done. There is not a businessman in Fiji who believes that there is judicial independence.

Your blinkered approach is not helping move Fiji forward. On the other hand it is helping to further the ambitions of Frankly Bananas and the AG
Anonymous said…
Crosbie, one would think that as a "prominent blogger", you'd know how to do a basic Internet search. Searching "Fiji budget" on RNZI's website brings up 13 stories in the past week. Not one, as you report.

Fair's fair, isn't it?
Cin Cin said…

What I do find strange is that you are surprised. Your trip was funded by the regime - your declaration of such may be admirable but in most reasonable people it would raise questions about your objectivity. To your credit you haven't descended to the gutter like Graham Davis and some of the other blogs, and you always makes for interesting reading, but that doesn't necesarily make your blog the paper of record.

Cin Cin
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Anonymous ... I did not say one but agree it could be so interpreted. My apologies. There were more stories, some negative and some positive but nothing substantial. But that's the nature of Radio NZI. Almost all its news items are little more than headings.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Cin Cin ... PART of my trip was government-funded. I funded the rest and I have not received any payment for anything I have written over the past four years. Why does my receipt of one-off Fiji government assistance make what I write necessarily less objective than journalists who have their salaries and all their expenses paid by their employers? I would have hoped people would read what I have to say about my trip before passing judgement. Question my objectivity by all means but only after I've written something to question.
Anonymous said…
Shazzer Grubby, who the hell do you think you are? Show your face and attach your name to this rubbish or shut up. Bored with your juvenile antics and anonymous BS. You are about as funny as a vial of pus.
Idiot watch said…
Croz, you don't have to justify yourself to anyone, let alone these cretins. It wouldn't matter what the position is, they will attack you because nothing short of total condemnation for the regime is good enough for them. They are totally irrelevant to what happens in Fiji and sit balefully on the sidelines watching the country finally get its act together.

Many governments provide people like yourself with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with what it going on at taxpayer expense. So why is Fiji any different? The important thing was for you to declare that you received the financial assistance you did. After that, you can say what you bloody well like. Nothing will satisfy these morons so why respond to their pathetic taunts? A pox on all of them.
Cin Cin said…
@idiot Watch and Croz,

Given that Croz apparently can't understand why his objectivity is questioned, and you Idiot Watch insist that the country is actually getting its act together, I can only say that it would appear that we have all become irrelevant.

Gutter Press said…
Crosbie, your confidence that Fiji's judiciary does not bow to state pressure is not only misplaced, it is demonstrably wrong.

The judiciary does not accept cases pertaining to any decree which has been deemed by the regime to not be subject to review. As such it bows to state pressure in the most obsequious way

Whilst I accept that misuse does not remove use, in the case of the judiciary it’s also a matter of ‘by their fruits shall ye know them’.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Gutter press. This is a hard one. The job of any judiciary is to uphold the law. It does not write the law and it has no powers to change the law. In Fiji decrees have been passed that cannot be questioned in law. You and I have problems with this. All laws should to open to review, and people should also be able to appeal against the law. But this is not always the case in Fiji at the moment. I would expect these restrictions to be removed after the 2014 elections and the reinstatement of Parliament.

My claim that the judiciary does not bow to state pressure is based on what happens when cases are brought before the judiciary. There, I see no evidence that the judiciary has acted in anyway different from other judiciaries, and I note that a number of judicial decisions have gone against the State. This suggests that, within what is possible, the judiciary is acting independently and responsibly, and is not bowing to pressure from government.

Blind Freddy Justice said…
You posted William Marshall's report. Are you calling him a liar? Did you read Greg Bullard's letter? The laws are made by the AG (who is the government) in direct consultation with Gates. They make a few decsions, the ones that suit them, against the state. You may know journalism, but you have no idea ion the law croz. Leave the legal comments to the lawyers. Your claims are wrong wrong wrong.

@ Gutter Press. You are spot on. Blind freddy sees that.

Croz, please give examples of these decisions against the state, so we can see who benefited. Read the Decrees. If you think that is judicial independence, then it is clear you have no grasp of the subject matter. Provide case names, not just bald statements that you cannot back up. Your wilful blindness is staggering.

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