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FIJI: Daily Post group vows to speak out

FIJI: Daily Post group vows to speak out

* Pacific Media Watch Online:


http://www.pmw.c2o.org

SUVA (PMW): Fiji's Daily Post group, through an editorial in its Sunday edition, has rejected charges that it is a "mouthpiece of government" and has vowed to continue to speak out boldly.

The editorial in the Sunday Post on 27 August 2000 comes in the wake of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's launching of the company's new Hindi weekly Ramneek Post on August 24.

The military-backed interim government has a controlling 44 per cent interest in the company inherited from the previous government of Sitiveni Rabuka and maintained by the deposed Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government of Mahendra Chaudhry.

The editorial said: "This paper will always support the conciliatory and healing process [since the arrest last month of the leaders of the May 19 insurrection].

"However, as [we] have stated in the past, we as the Fourth Estate, are the mouthpiece and conscience of the people. That is more the reason to be so in the existing trying circumstances where we do not have an elected government.

"Therefore, despite the fact that the government holds majority shares in our company, we are not the mouthpiece of government.

"If anything, we have, on occasions been more critical of it - and boldly so - than anybody else where we found legitimacy to be critical.

"Today, we are highlighting an issue which we feel needs to be addressed."

Some media analysts have indicated that the Daily Post's editorials were often more outspoken and courageous than their two rival newspapers' opinions during Fiji's political crisis.

In the accompanying editorial, headlined "Child of our hope", the Sunday Post joined the nation's school management boards in criticising the interim government's decision to reduce its per capita grant to all secondary schools by 50 per cent.

"One thing has become abundantly clear with some of the government's decisions are that they are in great haste to dismantle the policies and directions mapped out by the People's Coalition. We think it is time the interim administration swallow the bitter pill and give credit where it is due.

"This paper applauds the initiative of the deposed government in giving priority to social welfare issues such as education, health and poverty. For this reason an Education Commission was set up to forge an effective path for learning, human resource development and education in this country."

At the Ramneek Post launching on August 24, Prime Minister Qarase had said the media must ensure that his administration was open, honest and accountable in the absence of Parliament.

He also called on the media to promote national reconciliation and unity to foster a mutually caring and compassionate society.

"The media must also be a tool of development and nation-building, rather than a forum for creating and exacerbating racial suspicions and tensions between our communities," Qarase said.

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org

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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