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Media Site's Exclusive: Fiji Coup Live

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Media Site's Exclusive: Fiji Coup Live

* FIJILIVE.COM - staffed by just eight people led by Editor YASHWANT GAUNDLER - kept the world informed of undischarged bankrupt and Australian resident GEORGE SPEIGHT'S coup of MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY'S Fiji Government on Friday. At the height of negotiations, Fijilive updates were posted every 10 minutes, after international telephone lines were cut. Gaundler was News Editor of The Fiji Times before setting up the Fiji Review group in 1992. The Review warned just two weeks ago of secret meetings being held to plot against the Mahendra Government. Fijilive's TAMARISI DIGITAKI filed her reports all weekend from Parliament House.

* ALAN ROBINSON'S Fiji Times and Sunday Times published as normal, with Editor NETANI REIKA in contact with reporters at Parliament House. The Sunday Times included pages of photo spreads of the riots in Suva. Insiders at The Fiji Times told Media Flash on Sunday afternoon that distribution of the Fiji Sun and Fiji's Daily Post (with 66 per cent direct and indirect ethnic-Indian Government-led investment) was severly limited, if at all. Robinson was quoted in Media Flash (May 8) to say his newspaper's relationship with government 'is far more hostile and vindictive' than ever before.

Australian Leads Fiji News Coverage

* RUSSELL HUNTER, recent Editor-in-Chief of The Fiji Times, led The Weekend Australian's thorough expanded coverage. Hunter held the editorial post until the Government refused to renew his visa last month. Age International Editor TONY PARKINSON filed reports from Suva, as did JOHN FERGUSON for the Herald Sun. The Age seemed beaten to the punch for its Saturday edition, but The Sunday Age under STEVE FOLEY was back at speed.

* Oz background writer D.D. McNICOLL recalled that in SITIVENI RABUKA'S 1987 coups that world journalists filed copy by marine telephone and teletype, whilst Rabuka's men took a week to figure out how to stop international media. McNicoll and NICOLAS ROTHWELL were arrested in the second coup. REX GARDNER, now Hobart Mercury chief, was MD of The Fiji Times in 1987, and has recalled to friends how the newspaper was not censored, but the composing room was ringed by Army militiamen with loaded machine guns.

Bula-Dust Settles?

* FIJILIVE.COM had a short break in international transmission but was on air when Media Flash went to press on Sunday night. However, other Fiji sites seemed to be cut from Internet access. The Fiji site, which takes the Fiji Times feed, has been permanently down. The independent Pasifik Nius website of the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, started posting articles on Saturday, under journalism program leader DAVID ROBIE. First-class news articles were posted by journalism students including LOSANNA McGOWAN, with on-the-spot color photographs by KRIS LEUA and LATU MATOTO.

* HUGH RIMINTON travelled to Suva for the Nine Network's Saturday night broadcasts. GEOFF SIMS sent TV reports back to Australia for the ABC. CHRIS REASON filed similar reports, also using Fiji One TV footage, for the Seven Network. Ten Network used a phone link with local journalist SASHIMENDRA SINGH. MITCHELL KATLAN flew to Suva, to file reports for Southern Cross Radio news.

* By Saturday, coup leader Speight was being savaged by the media, described as a 'failed businessman' on Nine's News. Former PM Rabuka told Fiji One TV: "I am waiting for him (Speight) to make his announcement in Fijian. George Speight claims to be the champion of the indigenous rights as I claimed in 1987. I am still waiting for him to make his announcement in Fijian soon. And with a name like George Speight why does he not use Tokainavo."

* In a story not picked up by Australian media at the weekend, Fijian President RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA, 80, reportedly indicated he might step aside tomorrow (Tuesday) if the Great Council of Chiefs determined so. The revelation was made in a Fiji One TV interview with Rabuka on Saturday.

Warning On BBC-TV

* DON McKINNON, Commonwealth Secretary-General, joined the Australian, New Zealand and United States governments in condemning the attempted coup. He warned on BBC Television that Fiji could face the fate of Pakistan in being excluded from the Commonwealth if the coup succeeded. He told Radio Fiji that he was 'sad and angry': "This will not help Fiji's international reputation at all.'

* THE FIJI TIMES editorialised that 'the madness must end': "It is wrong and dishonorable to back protests with guns and violence. Threatening people's lives and putting their safety at risk is inexcusable. We have again witnessed how one moment of madness will set this country back by decades. Everything we have worked hard to put right and goals we have set for the nation have been ruined."

* DAVID ROBIE, University of South Pacific journalism program leader, reveals that coup leader GEORGE SPEIGHT pleaded not guilty to exchange rate charges and extortion in the High Court in Suva on Monday last week (May 15). He was reportedly Director of the Wattle Group in Australia. He was head of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation, a multi-million dollar company which has been at the centre of controversy in recent months.

(c) Media Flash 2000

Monday, May 22, 2000

Expressed Monday Mornings to 5900 Media Decision Makers. Confidential Weekly E-Newspaper. Published by Ash Long. Phone/Fax: 1-800 231 311. E-Mail:

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