Sunday, 31 January 2010

(o) Negativity is Treason: Blog Misunderstands or Deliberately Distorts New Crime Decrees

Cartoon: Goofy Green Monster with Spots, Six Legs and One Eye. Clip Art.

The story  posted by the anti-government blogger Coupfourpointfive under the heading "Any Negativity Against Regime Treated as Treason" is factually incorrect and, one must assume, deliberately misleading. I consider this the most blatantly biased, damaging -- but most easily refutable -- release so far by Coup4.5. Their general credibility is now in serious doubt.


If the mainstream print and radio media report this blog story without first checking the facts against Fiji's old and new laws, they are a party to the blogger's action, whether intended or not. Sloppy journalism becomes a weapon in politically delicate situations.

Coup 4.5 reports that "  one part of the decree limits what the Fiji media can report on a criminal case."   The inference is that this is a new provision, limiting freedom of the press. This is not so.The provision of the Criminal Procedure Decree prohibits reporting on criminal cases "until the conclusion of the trial" (section 201). It applies only to offences to be tried before the High Court such as rape and murder. And the provision  is identical to section 236 of the repealed Criminal Procedure Code that has been Fiji law since about 1948.

The blog then states: "  Under subsection 65 Part 2 individuals and NGO's criticising Frank Bainimarama's regime are deemed to have committed treason and this is punishable by life imprisonment."

In fact, section 65 of the new Decree is section 65 of the old Penal Code, which defined a seditious (sic!)  intention as an intention, inter alia, to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.  Section 66 of the old Penal Code created the offence inter alia of "printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, or reproducing any seditious publication" which offence was punishable with two years imprisonment and/or a fine of $200 on a first offence and three years on a subsequent conviction.

So the offence in the Decree is not new and arguably blogsites which promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between classes of the population have already been guilty of the old section 66! Only the name and the penalty has changed. The offence is now called "inciting communal antagonism" and the maximum penalty is now 10 years imprisonment. The offence is not called treason.

Treason is a separate offence under section 64 and it re-enacts the old common law definition of treason (as used in the trials of Timoci Silatolu and George Speight). It includes acts of killing the President or the Prime Minister or causing them harm and also includes levying war against Fiji. In fact the new definition adds nothing to the common law definition of treason, nor does it dilute it.

Last year's Abrogation of the 1997 Constitution made it necessary to replace laws existing under the Constitution.  For the most part, the decrees that replace them replicate, clarify and update the old laws. No new "draconian" sections have been added.

Readers wishing to read the new Crime Decree and Criminal Procedure Decree may click on these links to Mediafire, and download them from there.

The Media Decree is still being drafted so responsible comment is not yet possible. 

Anonymous comments on all posts must include pseudonyms, either in place of Anonymous or as part of the comment. This helps discussion.

8 comments:

  1. Good for you, Croz, in rebutting so effectively what at first glance seemed an alarming escalation in repression in Fiji. What was so potentially damaging here is that Coup 4.5 has enjoyed a high degree of credibility with the international media in particular. That it's been willing to jeopardise that credibility with this willful distortion shows how desperate it and other anti-regime blogs have become. Why are they being so reckless? Because what they've always feared most is now occurring - a change of attitude in official circles in Australia and New Zealand that will soon see important links with Fiji restored. Remember, these are people who believed, as an article of faith, that the Bainimarama regime would fall within months because of civil unrest and international pressure. Now that their worst nightmare is unfolding, it's only natural that their hysteria is reaching fever pitch. If you can bear it, anyone, take a look at the almost comical Solivakasama. It's as if the inmates have taken control of the asylum there. Coup 4.5 is smarter, though as you've demonstrated Croz, not by much. It thinks that a calm, outwardly even-handed approach is the better way to influence hearts and minds. So it blithely tells a big lie under that cloak of reason hoping that lie will be accepted as gospel truth. But a lie is still a lie and Coup 4.5 is exposed for what it is - an ugly propaganda tool for people masquerading as democrats but employing the crude methods of totalitarianism to get their way.

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  2. Thanks Croz - the distortion of the happenings form Fiji has continued for too long. As you point out these decrees dont have much new in them.

    Any guise of independence and fairness that 4.5 had is now gone. They have managed to remain the #1 Blog on Fiji because of they have managed to maintain some level of professionalism so far. As pointed out above now that they see that Banimarama's Govt is gaining support both in Fiji and overseas they are becoming desperate.

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  3. On the subject of the media generally, can anyone tell me why the Fiji Times doesn't even seem to bother to cover much of the day's news anymore? If you pick up the FT and compare it each day to the Fiji Sun, you can see instantly how far the Sun has streaked ahead when it comes to national coverage. FT editor Netani Rika said some time ago that his reporters were still covering the news and he had thousands of stories that the censors had spiked. That may well be the case. But it still doesn't explain why the Fiji Sun can cover certain stories and the Fiji Times can't. Or is it won't? I've heard whispers that Nika won't allow coverage of anything that can be construed as political, which in the present context means stories about the regime. But a lot of these stories are legitimate news that the people of Fiji need to be aware of so why deprive us of these to score a political point? I notice certain anti-government bloggers complaining that the Fiji Times is like some class rag nowadays but blaming that on the regime. But doesn't the paper have a case to answer itself? There are plenty of examples of newspapers in countries subject to government control, like Singapore, that are still able to provide their readers with a service. Is the FT really being constrained, as the critics say, or is the paper saying " we can't print what we want to print so you'll get nothing but anodyne crap until we do"?

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  4. The link to the crimes decree goes to the Criminal proceedings decree

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  5. I have sent two postings to coup 4.5 but they are selective and refuse to be accountable to anybody or publish things unsavoury to its reputation and standing as a media outlet with any credibility. They have failed to publish them.

    Despite seeking apology for its botched up posting on crimes decree, they deliberately allowed that misrepresentation together with its misrepresented views remain on posting on their site..

    Below is what I posted, that was seen too hot to handle by Coup 4.5. I challenge them to show some journalistic ethics which they are aware of, as some behind it possess masters qualification. This is what went to the Editor's trash bin on my response to their misrepresented Crimes Decree:

    “Hey Coup 4.5, are you sure you have got your facts correct in this matter? It appears you have got it all jumbled up and the sheep who have been crying in your chorus are equally wrong in jumping to wrong conclusion because of the distorted facts and half truths that you have been recently propagating and promoting.
    My understanding is that some behind this 4.5 site are qualified media and journalism students. This casts a slur on type of media education these people get in NZ Institutions. Such education is supposed to broaden ones vision and open ones mind to defend truth, not distort it. If such people are vested with the responsibility of reporting in the mainstream media, their reports would be deemed to be jaundiced and blinkered.
    If post graduate qualified Fijian politicians are also behind this, then it casts a slur on the journalistic ethics of the site because those who have been thrown off from the gravy train can hardly be expected to be balanced and neutral.
    The biggest loser in this whole saga, apart from truth, is the credibility of Coup 4.5.
    In light of all these, can you really blame Bainimarama for putting controls on media and journalists who seek responsibility and accountability from others, except themselves.”

    I let the readers be the judge on the credibility and balance of Coup 4.5.

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  6. K.I.S.S. Fiji friends. Remember Lee Kuan Yew and his drive to rid Singapore of too much 'free-thinking' as he attempted to rebuild the nation.

    That's the same path Bainimarama is taking.

    The freedom of individual expression can't be given too much maneuvering room as we have a national goal to accomplish.

    Indeed KKT Mara and Lee were boon dock buddies in the early 70's - both leading newly independent nations.

    Sadly while Singapore donated 8Billion US$ to the States out of its sovereign wealth funds during the financial bankruptcy of 2008, Fiji is still no where near being able to do that. Why? What happened? We are better resourced, English speaking workforce, as educated etc. I leave it to your readers to answer for themselves.

    Just support our efforts by giving us business, and while we're on that topic, come visit and buy some kava so you can all contemplate the task and how you can all be useful. Isa Vitia!

    "Fiji Taro Root And Kava. Source All You Need Direct From Traditional Farmers"

    ReplyDelete
  7. K.I.S.S. Fiji friends. Remember Lee Kuan Yew and his drive to rid Singapore of too much 'free-thinking' as he attempted to rebuild the nation.

    That's the same path Bainimarama is taking.

    The freedom of individual expression can't be given too much maneuvering room as we have a national goal to accomplish.

    Indeed KKT Mara and Lee were boon dock buddies in the early 70's - both leading newly independent nations.

    Sadly while Singapore donated 8Billion US$ to the States out of its sovereign wealth funds during the financial bankruptcy of 2008, Fiji is still no where near being able to do that. Why? What happened? We are better resourced, English speaking workforce, as educated etc. I leave it to your readers to answer for themselves.

    Just support our efforts by giving us business, and while we're on that topic, come visit and buy some kava so you can all contemplate the task and how you can all be useful. Isa Vitia!

    "Fiji Taro Root And Kava. Source All You Need Direct From Traditional Farmers"

    ReplyDelete

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