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Fiji Sun Condemned In Senate Over Photo

SUVA (PMW): Fiji's newest daily newspaper, the Fiji Sun, has been condemned in the Senate for misrepresentation over a front-page photograph and caption depicting two senators, according to radio and press reports.

Radio Fiji reported on 5 May 2000 that the president of the Senate, Jokapeci Koroi, had challenged Fiji news media to report factually while she condemned a photo showing her talking to Senator Atu Emberson-Bain which purported to have been taken on Thursday.

In fact, it was a file picture unrelated to the reported events.

The picture appeared to have shown Senator Bain as having violated Tongan mourning protocol by wearing a coloured outfit instead of the traditional black. She had actually been wearing black as she was in mourning for a close relative in Tonga.

Editor Stan Ritova ran an apology in his daily "Close-up" gossip column on May 6, saying: "We apologise to Senator Bain for the error and we assure her that it was done in good faith not knowing that she was in mourning."

His explanation was that the picture had been taken earlier but was picked out for publication on Thursday evening because of an absence of a Senate photograph to accompany the story.

The picture showed Senator Koroi brandishing a finger to Senator Bain (both are ruling Labour Party stalwarts, Koroi being the party president) and the caption read in part: "We must tell them this!"

According to a Fiji Sun news report on May 6, Senator Koroi said: "I urge the news media and particularly the Fiji Sun to ensure correct and factual reporting of events in a responsible manner.

"I hope that heed will be taken of my request, although similar requests

from this chair previously have not been fully heeded."

Senator Koroi said the photograph and the caption had created the impression that she had attempted to undermine the impartiality of the Senate.

"I wish to inform the House that while I sit in this chair, I will discharge my duties and obligations without fear or favour and in an impartial manner," she said.

"The caption purports to refer to this photograph having been taken yesterday. This is also not true."

Senator Koroi said that Senator Emberson-Bain had been wearing black all week because she was mourning the death of a close Tongan relative.

However, the picture showed her wearing coloured clothing.

"According to Tongan custom she has been wearing black since the beginning of the week and will continue to do so for the next 12 months," she said.

"The caption depicting her in dress other than in black and stating that the picture was taken yesterday implies that she is deliberately being insensitive and deliberately disrespectful to her custom."

* The Fiji Sun has frequently been criticised over alleged lack of accuracy since it began publishing in September 1999 and was the following month fined $3000 for contempt of court.

+++niuswire

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