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Fiji Media Watch censures news groups

* See PMW items 2812, 2808, 2805, 2802, 2801, 2776, 2772, 2770, 2741, 2740, 2739, 2738, 2737, 2735. Fiji TV May 29 Close-Up transcript: http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/fiji_coup/0529policemandies.html

SUVA: Fiji Media Watch has commended the Fiji Islands media for its "stalwart service" in keeping the public informed during the current political crisis while at the same time censuring the media for some "shoddy reporting", the Fiji Sun reports.

Vice-president Father Larry Hannan said credit was due to journalists for their personal commitment which involved long hours spent in difficult circumstances.

However, at the same time Fr Hannan said he wished to air some concerns regarding the manner in which some information was processed.

"Even allowing for the abnormal circumstances, reporting and presentation of news was generally not of a high standard," he said.

"There were numerous cases of shoddy reporting (lots of facts with little cohesion), unbalanced presentation of information, poor sequencing of events, over-reacting to situations, exaggerating less significant happenings and failure to emphasise positive developments," Fr Hannan said.

He said a typical instance of inept reporting was in the Fiji Times of June 23 covering a press interview with the national trauma recovery team.

Reacting to the allegations by Fr Hannan, Fiji Times associate editor Netani Rika told the Fiji Sun that he was disturbed by Fr Hannan's report.

"If it's true, then I am disturbed by what he has to say," said Rika.

Fr Hannan said that the Fiji Times had published a number of stories that had been "diluted" or quoted out of context.

"It erroneously stated that the team had been set up by the New Zealand government and that Professor Anthony Taylor was the team leader," Fr Hannan said.

Fr Hannan said that when contacted, the reporter did not seem too concerned but agreed to publish a correction, which was not done, he added.

Rika said that the Fiji Times would get to the bottom of the allegations.

"We will take every effort to see that inaccuracy is ruled out. But first we want to get to the bottom of this, then we will take necessary measures," said Rika.

Fr Hannan also pointed out reports aired by Fiji Television.

Although Fr Hannan said [Media Watch] sympathised with Fiji TV in the senseless damage [done] to it by a mob stated to be supporters of rebel leader George Speight, repeated airings of clips on the coup were overdone.

Fr Hannan also said it was noticeable that in the first two weeks of the emergency, reporting was confined almost exclusively to happenings in Suva, with practically no reference to other parts of the country.

No comments could be obtained from Fiji Television head of news and current affairs Richard Broadbridge.

The State-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation's general manager public service broadcasting, Francis Herman, could not be reached for comment.

* FMW is a non-government organisation monitoring the local media in the Fiji Islands - particularly its impact on the community and its values.

+++niuswire

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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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