Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Extent of Media Freedom in Fiji

I've no doubt there are very real limits to freedom of expression and media freedom in Fiji, but it could be argued that some of it is needed for the public good, and a range of opinions are still expressed in the media and in letters to the editor.
The public can also listen to each of the political party leaders, and the debate between Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Dr Biman Prasad,  on StraightTalk with Vijay Narayan, and those that missed out can listen to recordings of the videos here or on the Fiji Village website.

Here are some  recent Letters to the Editor, first from the historical neutral to anti-FijiFirst The Fiji Times,  and then from the openly pro-FijiFirst Fiji Sun:


■ Voting choice. Can someone please enlighten me on how to vote for a party, if I like a certain party, but don’t like some candidates of that particular party. Ajay Singh, Natabua, Lautoka.

■ Wage rate. The minimum wage of $5 to $10 can be achieved if all parliamentarians and aspiring ones take a pay cut. Companies to pay the existing minimum wage with the balance paid for by Government. Just a thought. Joe Matatolu, Waila 3A

■ Unorthodox tactics. I totally disagree with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on stating who should vote for which party in the upcoming election. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in the 12-year reign as the PM, Mr Bainimarama did not mention about race. What is the change now for? I believe he did not practise what he preached. What a shame, using unorthodox tactics to promote his party — criticising other minor parties. Change is coming! Raynav Chand, Nakasi.

■ Maturity and respect. I believe whoever is advising the PM on public TV appearance should tell him to speak with maturity and respect his opponents. Dan Urai, Lautoka.


In contrast to The Fiji Times, I found no letter openly hostile to the FijiFirst Government, which is a sign they could have been declined by the Editor, but to its credit the paper has offered all political parties free space to express their views, and all except SODELPA accepted.

Here is a sample of  the type of the neutral to vaguely pro-FijiFirst political letter published:

■ Party manifesto focus.
Jitendra Prasad,  Nausori
In my opinion, I think political parties and candidates should campaign on their views on the good and productivity of the country stated on their manifestos only. By comparing and debating now we will not get the best results. They should have discussed this in the past four years of governance, rather than talking and writing bad and negative comments about each other. Let the people think what we were like in the 1900s, 1950s, 2000 and 2018.

■ Ratepayers plight

Sukha Singh, Labasa

Could the good minister for towns and cities and new towns tell us how much more time he needs to put in new regula­tions before he allows us, the ratepayers, to have our own councilors? Can somebody give me his phone num­ber?

■ Political views
Rozina Ali, Suva (a long, rambling letter but informative and sincerely stated.)
    I was reading the political views of few par­ties recently. I came across one party who says if they form a government, they will bring back the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) and the old lease payment system. My question is if the system is working fine at the moment why do these political parties want to change it?
    I remember very clearly before the current government came into power, many leases were not renewed even though they paid the land rent. They were denied renewals. In some cases a few shareholders of the same land demanded more money.     In some cases, farmers were not even al­lowed to take out their belongings when they vacated the land. Many people who live in set­tlements are the victims of these lease pay­ment system. Some were told to go back to India, that Fiji is not their country. Me and my family are the perfect example of this. We were victims. Now the current government has ensured tenants are not treated unfairly. 
    Many (Opposition) party members are screaming that they need to increase the sugarcane pay­ments and encourage more farming.Where were those people when the farmers were removed from their farms and houses?Because they had lost their land, how can one party encourage farmers and promise to increase their cane payment to $100 a tonne? 
    (Opposition) Party members are saying poverty, unem­ployment and price of basic food items have increased and they going to reduce it. How? Some people were pushed into poverty and unemployment after they were evicted from the land. They used to plant vegetables, rice, and other crops and selling them. They were able to produce enough food to survive and make extra money but since they have been removed from their homes/farms they are looking for jobs outside. 
    These people who only knew farming are looking for jobs thus increasing the number of people who want jobs. They are earning very little because they are doing whatever they can to put food on their tables. Nowadays, even a Masters degree graduate needs to have experience to get a job. Who do these parties think will give jobs to these farmers? 
    Lease issues with the mataqali and the GCC brought about these problems. Was this issue investigated thoroughly? Why do some politicians want to take us back to a dark past when people suffered in pain. They did not suffer what people went through.

■ Voters are intelligent

Dharmendra Kumar, Suva
What is it with politicians and lies? The very people we entrust to make important decisions on our behalf are treating us with contempt by lying to our faces.
These are not just little white lies and eva­sions of the truth, but big, fat, bold lies. They’re lies that are an insult to voters’ intel­ligence. I personally love listening to lies when I know the truth because these politicians sound foolish and certainly look foolish when they lie.

Is the media free in Fiji?   No.  Not totally as we know it in NZ (but ours is often selective and one-sided, too), but there is some, and it is far better now than it was previously. 


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