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FIJI - A pox on the media

by Ross Nepia Himona te.putatara@actrix.gen.nz

The Foreign Correspondent is a highly skilled journalist and writer who immerses himself or herself in the job.

He or she does an enormous amount of homework and hard won research, to gain an understanding of his or her subject matter. The successful foreign correspondent lives and breathes the job, 24 hours a day, and more often than not, throughout the whole of his or her working life. Skilled and successful foreign correspondents develop a deep knowledge of the cultural mores of the countries they report, and they even, heaven forbid, learn the language. They develop a highly informed perspective.

This last fortnight, the Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand media dug deep into their reserves of skill and knowledge, found no foreign correspondents, then decided to send to Suva their sewing-circle and courts-round hacks to report with authority on highly complicated events in another country, in a culture completely different from their own. The journos at home as well, reporting and commenting from afar, became instant experts, able to comment with equal authority on events about which they had absolutely no idea.

They shaped the perceptions of the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia during the last two weeks, based only on their ignorance. In place of knowledge they substituted their own perceptions and values and prejudices. In place of understanding they imposed a cultural and moral superiority. In place of professionalism they descended into half-baked ill-informed prattle and speculation. In place of journalistic objectivity and integrity they resorted to mockery and ridicule.

It gets worse. Both the journalists in Suva and at home insinuated themselves into the crisis, and became participants rather than observers and reporters. They became part of the problem.

They will claim that they were manipulated by George Speight into that situation, and of course George Speight has used them to spread his propaganda. But the excuse does not stand up to scrutiny, for they were willing participants in the whole media charade. Their self-importance and hubris knew no bounds as they became caught up in the hype, convinced of their own righteousness, and carried away by the sound of their own voices. They desperately wanted to be part of the action.

In that state of absolute unreality, they proceeded to pass judgement, to impose wildly unrealistic expectations, to insult the people they interviewed, and to openly imply that the Indigenous Fijians are a bunch of incompetent amateurs. In doing so they built up enormous resentment among Indigenous Fijians, and helped to inflame an already serious situation. There can be no doubt that they helped prolong the whole affair.

They do have the semblance of an excuse I suppose, for there was not one real foreign correspondent among them, either at home or in Suva.

Article available at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/rhimona/karere/fiji023.htm

Ross Nepia is the editor of Te Karere Ipurangi a Maori news site

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