Robie on NZ and Fiji Media Coverage and Accuracy

Professor Robie's contribution to journalism in the Pacific is unsurpassed. Check him out on on Wikipedia.  In this report, he criticizes the under-reporting and shallowness of Pacific reporting by the NZ media; sheds a different light from that reported in NZ on the 2006 Fiji Coup and its aftermath; and points to far worse situations than Fiji in the Asia-Pacific region about which the NZ media —and the NZ Government— also says little. 

I agree with his general assessment but think quality is more important than quantity and the reporting of Barbara Dreaver and Michael Field (especially Michael Field) on Fiji falls far short of what one might expect from an informed and impartial media. I also do not think the Media Industry Development Agency is "draconian." It may not be perfect but something had to be done about the earlier total absence of checks on the accuracy of media reporting  by Fiji media . -- Croz

AUCKLAND (Indian Weekender / Pacific Media Watch): The Asia-Pacific region is poorly reported and under reported in the New Zealand media and has been for years, says a leading journalism academic.Professor David Robie, director the Pacific Media Centre at the AUT University, said the mainstream and legacy media was “patchy” at best in the coverage of the region of“The poor level of reporting means that we are frequently misinformed or we get a one-dimensional view of developments, which is barely half the story.”

Dr Robie, a media educator in the Pacific region for many years, including heading the journalism programme at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, was speaking at a recent launch of his latest book, Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.

In the book, Dr Robie, distills his lessons from 35 years of working in the Asia-Pacific region.

Covering environmental challenges, coups, the nuclear-free and independent Pacific movement and civil rights, as well as the many barriers journalists face, Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face reveals many of the hidden stories from island nations.
“Critical development journalism is a robust form of journalism investigating political and social process and policy. It is still speaking truth to power, but as well as seeking accountability, it tries to find a constructive edge leading to solutions," he said.

Poorly reported
“The Asia-Pacific region is poorly reported and under reported in the New Zealand media and has been for years.

“Only one institution consistently covers itself with credit when covering the region and that is Radio New Zealand International. Although Māori Television’s current affairs programme Native Affairs has also done some excellent Pacific work,” he said.

Spasifik magazine and TVNZ’s Tagata Pasifika programme also do first first class work."
Although RNZI only had a fraction of the resources of its cousin across the Tasman, Radio Australia plus ABC Television, it did an "excellent and creditable" job.

“But with the honourable exceptions of individual journalists such as TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver and Fairfax Media’s Michael Field – both banned by the Bainimarama regime in Fiji – the mainstream and legacy media is patchy at best in the coverage of the region,” Dr Robie said.

“The poor level of reporting means that we are frequently misinformed or we get a one-dimensional view of developments, which is barely half the story.

“Our treatment of Fiji is an example of this. The hypocrisy and double standards over the reporting of radical changes in post-coup Fiji have not only blinded us about the realities but also prevented us seeing other critical issues around the region.

Corrupt democracy
“In many respects, the illegal Bainimarama regime has been a pariah ever since the military coup in 2006."

Dr Robie said it should not be forgotten that the so-called “democracy” that was overthrown was actually an extremist and corrupt ethno-nationalist regime masquerading as democratic.

“Also, the reality is that this same military backed regime is likely to become the elected government in the general election in September,” he said.
“Orchestrated and manipulated, perhaps. But the regime does have a lot of genuine support in rural areas and it least it opens the door to a return to real democracy.
“For the doomsayers there is very little difference from when the original coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka made the transition from hardline military dictator to elected prime minister in 1992.

“Paranoia reigns when the regime’s bureaucrats deal with the media and there is a climate of timid self-censorship in Fiji under the control of the dictatorial Media Industry Development Tribunal – except for a handful of courageous and dissident journalists such as Ricardo Morris and his Republika magazine.

“Actually Fiji is not the biggest worry in the region by a long shot,” Dr Robie said.

Journalist assassinations
“Indonesian repression in the two Melanesian provinces that make up the West Papua region and the climate of impunity in the Philippines where journalists are assassinated with ease are serious crises in the region.
“But when do you read about these issues in the New Zealand media?
“At least 206 journalists have been murdered in the Philippines since 1986—34 of them in the Ampatuan massacre in Mindanao in 2009. More than four years later nobody has been convicted for these atrocities.”
He said the Philippines was a far more dangerous place for the media under democracy than it was under the Marcos military dictatorship. 
“And now a controversial law in the Philippines billed by critics as an “electronic martial law” that criminalises e-libel may be mimicked in the Pacific.”
“In Papua New Guinea the Peter O’Neill government has signalled an impending onslaught against stridently critical social media with a draft new cyber-crime law.”
He criticised New Zealand for being one of the "silent nations" over repression in West Papua and was scathing over Australia's handling of the asylum seekers issue in the Pacific.
“More than 3000 asylum seekers are living in detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea deprived of their human rights and with no hope for the future.
“Through the so-called “Pacific Solution”, Australia has simply attempted to dump responsibility on two nations for a price,” he said.
“Far more investigative journalism is needed, or as I would say, more critical development journalism.”
Arvind Kumar is the editor of the Indian Weekender.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks Croz for clarifying things. I fully agree with your assessment of Mr Field. He has constantly shown a massive anti-regime bias when reporting on Fiji. He has portrayed Fiji as a dictatorship and Robbie is essentially doing the same bib calling the media decree draconian.

Anonymous said...

Yes, how could a respected journalist like Mr Field or anyone else call Fiji a dictatorship and Bainimarama a dictator? This rumour about thugs with guns taking over a legitimately elected government is a fantasy. Everyone who reads the non biased and professional regime rag the Fiji Sun knows the rule of law is not corrupted and human rights abuses are non-existent? Mr Walsh is correct. The Fiji Sun sets the media standard we should all aspire wonder Fiji is in the mess it is in?

Anonymous said...

Anonymity is necessary for the conduct of democratic politics. Not only must we be able to choose with whom we discuss politics, we must also be able to protect ourselves against retaliation for our expressions of political ideas. Autonomy is vitiated by the wholesale invasion of secrecy and privacy. Free decision-making is impossible in a society where every move is monitored, as a moment's consideration of the state of North Korea will show, as would any conversation with those who lived through 20th-century totalitarianisms, or any historical study of the daily realities of American chattel slavery before our civil war.

In other words, privacy is a requirement of democratic self-government. The effort to fasten the procedures of pervasive surveillance on human society is the antithesis of liberty. This is the conversation that all the "don't listen to my mobile phone!" misdirection has not been about. If it were up to national governments, the conversation would remain at this phoney level forever.

Anonymous said...

So the Indian Weekender has joined the Fiji Sun in attacking Australia and supporting the thug junta? It is funny how so many boat people are trying to use people smugglers to get into Australia if it is a bad place? If you don't like the country - go somewhere else. That is a polite way of saying 'fark off'!!

Anonymous said...

At last we see some real journalism on this blog. David Robie has remained impartial. He has remained objective.

Mr Walsh, study Mr Robie. You may just learn something. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Anonymous said...

Geez, my 2 commentators who have just commented above are delirious given the fact that human rights abuses is happening in FIJI......LEST WE FORGET SAKIUSA RABAKA and THE OTHERS WHO PASSED AWAAY VIA MILITARY Hands. Let us remember OUR activists who faced persecution at the hands of the Military whilst at the same time we must be MINDFUL of the fact that there are a lot of RESTRICTIONs been placed ON citizens. I also beg to differ with Robbie regarding the SDL being corrupted during their term in government. It is a WELL Known Fact that the regime is THE most CORRUPTED GOVT. in THE HISTORY of FIJI. In terms of the Media, FIJI Sun is A propagandist for the Govt. As for the MIDA, it is also Sailing on the same boat as the Fiji Sun being Propagandist. Moreover, the Gay Chairman 4 MIDA and HER Organisation are trying to Clamp down ON media Fraternities that questioned this govt.