Thursday, 10 April 2014

Shallow Unbalanced Reporting on Fiji Unhelpful

Clamp down
By Crosbie Walsh

An article headed "Fiji: Regime Clamps Down on Advocacy NGOs Ahead of Elections" does not live up to the generally high standard I have come to expect from student journalists at AUT's Pacific Media Watch.

It appears to be a collection of mostly anti-Bainimarama government articles sourced from Fiji online media releases. Each of these stories has a history that cannot be fairly dealt with in one short article. It would, I think, have been better to have dealt more thoroughly with one issue, perhaps the 'clamp down' on the NGO, omitting the ragtag of other anti-government accusations.

The article is not helped by its use of value-laden words such as  'clamp down', 'lambasting' and 'lashed out' which set the tone and make a calm assessment of the issues difficult.  More  seriously, the article contained a number of errors and made no attempt to provide the background needed to understand the issues raised.

First, only one NGOs is directly concerned, the Citizens Constitutional Forum,  and its booklet was on the constitution, not 'pre-election advocacy work'. The booklet contained a number of errors that could misinform ordinary Fijians about Government actions and intent.  Whether this was accidental or deliberate is unknown and probably unknowable.  But the fact that the booklet calls the Fiji constitution the Government constitution (not mentioning the widespread national consultations on its draft) was hardly an error.

In mitigation, the NGO said the booklet was written by 'experts' but this does not ensure impartiality when the experts were foreigners funded by overseas donors unsympathetic to the Fiji Government.

It is hardly surprising in these circumstances that voter education conducted by NGOs has to be approved by the Electoral Commission. This is a body appointed by —but independent of— Government whose members have impressive  and diverse credentials. Its chairman is a former President of the Fiji Law Society.  Other members include a university professor (who is also a member of the contentious NGO!), leading figures in tourism and marketing, financial advisory work, film making, a NZ-born Catholic priest who is an expert of voting systems, and a former executive director of a national development NGO.

The remainder of the article presses on with reported attacks on the Fiji government with no further reference to NGOs.

Criticised is the action of the Media Industry Development Agency in demanding Fiji TV apologize for broadcasting what they claim was a "hate speech" punishable by law.

The issue here is not that MIDA was set up by 'military decree', as the article states,  All new laws since 2006 have been introduced by the military-backed government.

The issues are whether the speech could have inflamed racial intolerance, and whether MIDA acted properly or over-reacted to the speech.  The article does not raise these issues, and wrongly stated the speech aired on FijiTV News, was made at a 'public political meeting' when it was made at a provincial council meeting, and overall the speech was not critical of Bainimarama as the article claims. In fact, the speaker is a supporter of the Bainimarama government.

Another reported accusation, by Dorsami Naidu of the Fiji Law Society,  that the Elections Decree allows 'snooping' on internet  conversations in the 48 hours before the election is correct, although the word 'snooping' infers misuse.  The Decree forbids any election canvassing (including the use of the internet for this purpose) during this  period, and in this respect it is not too different from New Zealand.

A further accusation, by the Fiji Trade Union Congress,  is that the Decree prevents independent candidates from registering because they are required to obtain a thousand registered voter signatures in order to register. This is correct but misleading.

In September, Fijian voters will vote in one large national constituency with over 300 candidates contesting 50 parliamentary seats.  If  an independent candidate cannot obtain one thousand signatures, he or she has no chance of crossing the five percent threshold and obtaining the 28,000 votes needed to be elected.  The issue is a non-issue and the FTUC, that has political connections and aspirations,  knows this.

This is election year in Fiji and, as in any election year,  voters —and journalists— need to be especially careful in dissecting and reporting what is said. Journalists should note that while several opposition voices speak out against the Bainimarama government, government usually only replies with one voice. To report each one, rather than each  "side", must create an imbalance.

The PMW article gives the impression of an oppressed Fiji nation ruled by the military. This is far from the truth despite what the media has told the New Zealand public for the past six years. Things are not perfect in Fiji and they never were.  Media freedom is relative and some aspects of some decrees may rightly be seen as oppressive. But a string of independent and relatively robust polls taken over the past six weeks  show between 75 and 80 percent support for Bainimarama as preferred prime minister this coming September, and between 40-49  percent supporting his Fiji First party.

It would seem those opposing the Bainimarama government may not be as representative as the PMW article supposed.


  1. No immunity for treasonous criminalsThursday, 10 April 2014 at 12:50:00 GMT+12

    Trying to pretend the current illegal regime in Fiji is anything but a human rights abusing military junta is simply head in the sand rubbish. Bainimarama is a tainted military dictator. If (on the basis of illegal decrees, removing all (real) opposition and compromised rule of law) he does become PM of Fiji under a sham constitution (which gives him and his human rights abusing thugs immunity) he will continue to be seen for what he is and treated accordingly.

    1. @No immunity for treasonous criminals
      I take it you hold the same view towards Rabuka then?

    2. Croz,

      Media bias is largely in the eye of the beholder, and the bias you perceive is jaundiced by your slavish support for the military junta that has ruled Fiji since 2006. The “collection of mostly anti-Bainimarama government articles sourced from Fiji online media releases” that you criticize comprises articles from the mainstream media in Fiji, including the Fiji Times, Fiji TV, and two from the pro-regime Fiji Sun. After developing its lede more than adequately, the article proceeds to provide some needed context. In my expert view as a journalism educator, it is quite well done. Perhaps you should stick to analyzing political developments, which is your area of expertise, and leave media analysis to the experts.

      Marc Edge
      Fiji Media Wars

    3. Hello Marc, I thought you'd given up commenting on Fiji after your brief sojourn in the country. I never found out whether you were sacked or urged to leave because of your attempts, as a journalism editor, to influence the political opinions of the students you taught, or whether you left of your own accord. I thank you for commending me as a political analyst but I'm nothing of the sort. I'm a population geographer who's been studying, working, lecturing and writing on the Pacific since the late 1950s. Prior to this I was a journalist and I have been engaged in intermittent publishing ever since. What new special skills do I need to be a media analysis expert? A bias in the other eye?

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Obviously you have not been following my blog. Don't play dumb. I was run out of Fiji by a smear campaign, as you well know, because you administered the coup de grace. How can you forget authoring these immortal lines: "He is on a work permit issued by the Fiji government he constantly criticises, and a significant portion of his salary is paid for by the Fiji Government. He is not a citizen and is a relative newcomer to Fiji. If I were similarly placed, I would listen and say little. It says much for the tolerance of the government and the university that he is still able to publish partisan polemic exercises on his blog. Others have their association with the university terminated, and their work permits cancelled, for less. A reader [doubtless Grubby Davis] sent this email: 'How can he pour this kind of derision on a respected former academic from USP? It is utterly gratuitous and uncalled for. Perhaps you need to complain to USP when you are so egregiously misrepresented by the Head of the School of Journalism.'" No doubt you did.

    6. Marc Edge-Go back to the hole you came out of. You are a classic example of so called academics who turn up to Fiji for 2 mins and think they know everything about the country. Whilst I am not debating your academic ability in regards to Journalism; I am specifically talking about your numerous tirades in various forms of social media perpetuating yourself as someone of an expert in Fiji and its political issues. I am not a supporter of a coup nor any political parties but this sort of behaviour from academics like yourself annoys the hell out of me.

    7. Marc Edge-How long did you live in Fiji for? Just out of curiosity.

    8. No immunity for treasonous cowardsThursday, 10 April 2014 at 18:58:00 GMT+12

      The old regime supporting fool can give it out but not receive it Mark. It is clear to see why he and the dictator have similar views - particularly when it comes to censorship and cowardly bullying.

    9. You are confused. In one sentence you state that the "old regime supporting fool" whom I assume to be Croz Walsh in this case, are not able to receive criticism yet can give it out to people like you, but don't you think the fact that your contribution here has not been deleted says otherwise? Infact, if these so called regime sympathisers couldn't take it, your previous post would have been deleted. Go to Coup 4.5 blog and see how the anti-regime supporters hold their debate. As a fijian 'I-Taukei" (who is not a coup believer also) it shames me to say the list that we the "I-Taukeis" could stoop to that level and yet we call ourselves christians on top of being a respectful race. This forum is probably one of the very rare ones where people are allowed to debate without calling each other names and vilifying one another with reckless rumours of people's personal lives.

  2. Marc edge says 'leave media analysis to the experts.'
    If he means 'experts' like him, God help us all.
    This man's bias and personal agenda is obvious.
    He has criticised journalism standards in Fiji numerous times.
    Now he is defending standards?
    It seems Marc Edge changes his stance as and when it suites his agenda.
    He lodged a complaint against a Fiji journalist with MIDA.
    The very MIDA he denounces as authoritarian, he legitimises by lodging a complaint with it.
    It seems this man has no principles. Just a mighty big axe to grind.
    He changes his stance like people change their underwear.
    Fortunately many people can see right through him.
    This is one 'expert' you would want to give a wide berth.

    1. Would you rather trust the 'expert' Aswin Raj from the illegal regime media repression agency Mida? Read the Lowy Interpreter for the latest views on the human rights abusing junta.

  3. Croz, I'm surprised you place much store in opinion polls - scientific or otherwise. For the last 8 years the regime has controlled or crushed most public political discourse, has swept aside or heavily restricted the activities of bodies that could be construed as points of opposition, and by way of decree has regulated to their own ends and aims nearly all areas of political engagement. They have been, in effect, the only game in town. Of course the polls are going to reflect this.

    The sting in the tail for the regime - and their apparently numerous fan club - is that they have believed their own press for so long that any other possible electoral outcome is impossible to imagine. However all is not lost for you Croz - the recent and poorly disguised threat from the newly installed army commander that he is prepared to take unpopular steps in the future would indicate that apparently some in the regime are not as blind as some of their followers.

    1. Cin Cin... Like you, I'm cautious of political polls but I report them, leaving readers to decide their worth. But this poll seems to be well run, the questions are clear and the sample reasonably chosen. I'll reserve judgement of its worth for a few more weeks when trends should be more more evident. There are still a large number of uncommitted voters.

  4. As a former Contributing Editor of Pacific Media Watch, I declare my interest and possible bias towards this helpful website and service.

    There's a great ongoing debate of what constitutes fairness and balance, but I think we can agree that balance doesn't mean you have to say every good thing about the subject, alongside every bad thing. The article above takes from a range of sources - some of them known to be very pro-regime. All the statements are statements of fact, although you're correct in saying Ratu Timoci was critical, not of Bainimarama, but of those who think that "water and kerosene" do mix. Bainimarama being of the view that they do, then it's fair to say he was critical of Bainimarama. Your criticism is a long bow, particularly as you argue the article missed the point on the matter. The point is that the MIDA chairman pronounced Fiji TV guilty of hate speech before any hearing of the media tribunal. Mr Raj has acted outside his authority in that regard, and that is the substantive matter, not so much whether one thinks he has overreacted or not.

    The strict editorial process at PMW means readers are told if an article is opinion or not, and this is clearly not an opinion article. I think those that are "slammed" and "lambasted" are best to judge whether those descriptors are valid, and from my ongoing experience, they are even too afraid to talk, let alone complain about the very real clamp-down they face.

    The article is clearly not opinion disguised as fact, and I think those working in the media in Fiji would appreciate these facts reaching international readers.

    If you're a regular reader of the Fiji Sun you'll see that the "one voice" of Government is repeated in countless articles, contravening the regime's own decrees (about who can and can't masquerade as a political party before being registered), while the many voices are hardly heard despite constant press releases, and a ministry of information and MIDA that is calling for more diverse voices. In fact many of the political voices have united together as one so to better pitch to the media, but this too has not worked for them.

    There's many good things about Fiji , and journalists always need to be careful, no matter what country they are in. But it's a fact of life that until a democratic election takes place, Fiji is indeed ruled by military. Surely you aren't fooling yourself about that? Denying that and repeating requests of MIDA that journalists need to be careful does tend to betray an attitude of denial about fundamental facts.

    Looking forward to reading your ongoing insights into Fiji and its progress, as always.

    Alex Perrottet

    1. Alex, Good to hear from you.

      Of course, I agree with much of what you (and the student journalist for that matter) have to say, but I still think she would have been better to have dealt with one issue at some depth (or. at least, with some background) , rather than skating over the surface of so many. I could be mistaken but the items that did not concern the NGOs seem to have been a trawling exercise to see what else she could find that was wrong.

      And this is definitely not helpful because it paints blacks and white, The government has done some good things and the old political parties were not as pure as the NZ media would have us believe. .

      My comment of course in no way detracts from the excellent work at the PMC and PMW.

      One last thing before wishing you well, I have never said this is not a military led or influenced government. Take care. and keep well. Croz

    2. Thanks Croz, good to hear your response. I'm reading your lines:
      "The PMW article gives the impression of an oppressed Fiji nation ruled by the military. This is far from the truth despite what the media has told the New Zealand public for the past six years."
      It's true there's been some great steps forward in development in Fiji in the past six or seven years - some much-needed improvements that previous corrupt governments were never bothered to do. But there are forms of oppression, and just because they may be minorities doesn't mean we don't make a big deal out of them. Against many outside onlookers, I agree the incumbent has a lot of support, but that doesn't mean journalists shouldn't report on the minorities that are not being heard. That's a principal tenet of good journalism, and good democracy. I don't think it's a duty of a journalist, when reporting on serious concerns such as freedom of expression and the press, and other human rights, to also report on the good things that have been achieved. It would make each article far too laborious, and assume that readers know nothing of the subject matter. Further, balance is something that can be judged at a 'macro' level for a news outlet, not just inside each news story. I think this is something that is missed by many. If you look at PMC online, and other credible news sources, you will find great balance in perspectives - for instance, PMC and its sister site Pacific Scoop, has featured plenty of opinions on Fiji from Wadan Narsey to Graham Davis and yourself.

  5. Let's have no more of this nonsense from Marc edge. He was sacked from USP for misconduct. He keeps saying he was driven out of Fiji by "Grubby" Davis. Rubbish. Talk to anyone at USP. He lost his job because of all the complaints against him and was going to lose his work permit. Slunk off into the night like the lamusona he is. Moce vakadua.

  6. Marc Edge refers to his "expert view as a journalism educator". God save us if this is the standard of his "expertise". Mediocre doesn't even begin to describe this deluded fool. Mercifully gone forever.

  7. Not so. I'll always be with you . . . virtually.

  8. Former USP journalism studentFriday, 11 April 2014 at 16:02:00 GMT+12

    I can confirm Marc edge was sacked from USP because he was always throwing tantrums, screaming in his office, slamming the phone, shouting at someone of the phone, banging his desk, talking down to our PNG lecturer Nash as if he was a small kid, clashing with teaching assistance Irene Manueli, shouting at students, ridiculing students in front of peers. it was a circus that became unbearable. we students became scared. we celebrated when he left.

    1. Sorry, not Arnold. Another disgruntled tired of your ongoing pretence and hypocrisy, ans wishing you would just disappear after all the damage caused.

    2. What a miserable excuse for a human being you are, ME. Everyone knows the true story of what happened. You are a pathetic, little man waging a silly vendetta. You picked on Arnold at USP and I cannot believe you are still at it! Unbelievable!!! The truth is your students hated you. All you taught them was how to see through an insecure white man with a small dick next time one stood in front of them. Come to think of it, maybe you were a success after all.

    3. I think I now have a much better idea of who this is . . . and it is NOT a student.

    4. So who is it mr know all smart arse?

  9. I'll hafta do a bit more work on this to confirm my suspicions . . . but this will be a BIG story . . . suffice it to say that it is a fairly prominent person who likes to troll the blogs and wouldn't *dare* use her own identity because of her position

    1. Pathetic but useless effort to divert from the real issue. It's not about who is who. It's about why you were sacked from USP. The question has been answered by people in the know.

    2. Her name is Mis-conduct.

      God Marc Edge, you are such a pompous asshole. Await your BIG story. It will be the only thing that is big about you. Talk about small man syndrome!!!!

  10. There is a lot of hate speech in this racist blog. Mostly be bottom feeding slum dwellers who are always the first to scream 'racism' when they stub their toe running from their own shadow.

    1. The trailer trash redneck strikes again. Lonely looney bastard mad from too much pulling. A racist scum if ever there was one.


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