In an interview with the influential Pacific Beat, the quietly spoken and somewhat enigmatic Dr Edge – having said nothing especially critical at the conference itself – let fly. He accused the PINA organisers of stifling dissent at the 2012 media summit and rejected their claims that it was marked by unity between previously warring factions. There was, he said, a lot of disagreement behind the scenes. But the PINA organisers had managed to keep a lid on it because many of the dissenters either weren’t present in Fiji or were there trying to act as conciliators.
|PINA delegates welcome Frank Bainimarama (photo: Pacnews-PINA)|
But blow me down, if a month on, Marc Edge hits the airwaves blasting this interpretation as wrong and portraying PINA as a seething mass of discontent. Que? Where were the rest of us when all this disagreement was happening? It certainly wasn’t evident on the conference floor. Were a small coterie of malcontents plotting behind the scenes – so exclusive a club, perhaps, that no-one else noticed? On second thoughts, there was something strange going on. It’s just that we bumpkins didn’t realise it at the time.
All week, we’d heard dire predictions of the Fiji summit ending in conflict. It was all going to happen in the final session on the final day. Where were these predictions coming from? Well, strangely enough, from precisely the same Radio Australia reporter – Bruce Hill – who has now given Marc Edge the biggest crack at revisionism in recent Pacific media history.
|Radio Australia's Bruce Hill (photo: ABC)|
|Gone native but still a western media mindset (Photo: Dr Edge's website)|
It’s pretty clear in the minds of conference organisers that Hill came to PINA spoiling for a fight, or at least to pursue his favoured narrative of a Pacific media umbrella in tatters by continuing division over Fiji. And when he didn’t get it at the conference itself, and his predictions of trouble amounted to nought, he simply bided his time until he could revive his narrative down the track. Enter Marc Edge – not an islander at all but a former working journalist and educator from Canada who’s been at USP for a mere eight months and had never attended a PINA conference before. Dr Edge was publicly silent for the entire week of the summit about the divisions he now claims were present all along. Then precisely a month later, he chooses to vent. And presto. All the elements coalesce of yet another bout of the “conflict journalism” Bruce Hill and others like him in the region’s metropolitan media markets have recently been accused of peddling.
|from left - Dr Marc Edge, USP's Irene Manueli, Professor David Robie|
For my part, it’s certainly a comfort that “probably the world’s foremost expert on Pacific media” – Robie – corroborates my own recollection of what took place at PINA. I’d begun to think that my faculties had been distorted by the liquid refreshment on offer and the flattering attentions of journalistic ingenues. It was a peaceful affair – as we both faithfully reported in the first place – which axiomatically suggests that the main area of conflict may well have been in Marc Edge’s head.
|Peacemaker Kalafi Moala (l) and chief antagonist Terry Tavita (r) (Photo: Pacnews-PINA)|
|Shona Pitt and Lisa Williams-Lihari flanking Frank Bainimarama ( Photo: Pacma-PINA)|
It’s curious, to say the least, that on the one occasion Dr Edge spoke publicly at PINA, he said nothing about the burning issues of conscience that he felt moved to raise on RA a month later. He was part of a panel charged with the task of reflecting on the threats and challenges posed to individual journalists of the changing media landscape and the “urgent need to reinforce moral values in journalism”. What did we get instead from the head of journalism at the region’s preeminent place of learning? A rambling, unscripted few minutes about how Dr Edge had wound up in Fiji after sailing there on his yacht and what his students were doing at USP.