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Radio Fiji admits talk show may be 'offensive'


SUVA: The state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd was aware that some comments made on one of its Hindustani programmes may have been offensive, reports Fiji's Daily Post.

The company this week stopped Thakur Ranjit Singh, the host of the programme, from hosting Tanik Hamari Bhi Suno which is aired on Thursdays and Sundays.

The decision was made by the chairman of the board following advice from Assistant Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi.

"The company is looking at several permanent employees of the FBCL's Hindustani language to host the show," chairman Daniel Whippy said.

"Mr Thakur Ranjit Singh was never an employee of the company.

"He was a volunteer contributor and has been informed of the company's decision to replace him."

Whippy said it was not a news and current affairs programme and therefore the independence and impartiality of their newsroom did not feature in the issue.

He said the company reserves the right to take whatever action it deems necessary to ensure its programmes meet the required standards, both in quality and content.

However, his expulsion has been met with criticism and the Pacific Islands News Association yesterday expressed concern at his removal.

In justifying his actions, Vayeshnoi said his ministry had received numerous complaints from members of the public and government about the programme.

He confirmed writing a letter to the company to remove Singh.

Yesterday, Labour-led government Member of Parliament Muthu Swamy demanded an apology from Singh on comments he made against the people of Labasa.

But Singh said he owed no one an apology and that his programme was intended to expose truth generally swept under the carpet.

"My programme was designed to highlight the suppression and oppression of women in Labasa, in particular, and expose types of atrocities committed on them by their families," he said.

"I do not owe any apology to anybody. As for one man who did not like the programme, there are 10 oppressed ladies who regard Thakur as a brother," he said.

PINA said government, as did any member of the public, had the right to complain about the programme. But it was a matter of great concern that it appeared pressure had been applied to ban a current affairs presenter.

"Radio Fiji as a national broadcaster must remain totally independent from government interference if it is to play its crucial role in providing the people of Fiji with the information they need to participate fully as citizens in a democracy," the association said.

"The Fiji Media Council, of which Radio Fiji is a member, provides an independent complaints tribunal through which breaches of news and programming standards can be adjudicated on."

Fiji Television chief executive Ken Clark said Vayeshnoi's interference in the choice of an air host for a radio programme on Radio Fiji was a blatant case of government control of broadcasting matters.

"This is an area in which government should have no part to play," he said.

* Ranjit Singh is general manager and publisher of the Daily Post.


PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

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