Judge for Yourself
Government opponents and foreign journalists say MIDA is restricting media freedom. The question is whether, in the Fiji context, Ratu Timoci's speech was a "hate speech" and whether FijiTV acted responsibly in not editing the part of his speech that could be considered racist and offend Indo-Fijians. You be the judge. Here's the link to the FijiTV news item
And here, thanks to FijiLeaks, is a translation of the part of the speech that could be offensive:
"If you think that you'll get support from other communities just because of the Constitution that you have put together, then I can boldly state to you right now, "Forget It". If the people, the Vanua, do not back you, you will certainly not return to office.
In my experience, the Vasu (the Indian Community) will sweet talk you and get what they need. They don't want you to lead them. All they want is the Constitution that you have put together, all they want are the changes that you have brought about to government, that you have brought about and the investments. I would like to warn you that these upcoming elections will not be an easy one for you. Because we have lived for a long time with each other. Water cannot mix with kerosene."
Ed. Comment. I note that Dr Wadan Narsey has questioned whether it was a hate speech, waving it aside because Ratu Timoci, a Bainimarama supporter, raised real issues and because there's also Indo-Fijian racism against Taukei, and racism is also evident among Indo-Fijians.
He's right, of course, racism is repugnant wherever it exists, but I think there are two issues here (a) was the speech (as seen in the passage quoted) racism, an unfortunate mix of words that suffered in translation, or merely an expression of fact and reasonable opinion? and (b) Was the speech of sufficient importance for MIDA to have reacted so strongly?
My own view on (a) is that Ratu Timoci stoked up some old stereotypes that border on racism, but his main point was that Bainimarama will need vanua (Taukei) votes to win the election, and he should not rely too much on other communities; and on (b) that an an expression of disappointment, or even a warning, could have been given to FijiTV. MIDA's reaction was over zealous. As a result, two issues, racism and media freedom, are now blurred, and MIDA's independence and credibility is now being questioned. I see nothing sinister or foreboding in MIDA's reaction. It's more a question of not knowing when and when not to act, and this should improve with experience. -- Croz