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Fiji Times says 'clean up training institute mess'

FIJI TIMES SAYS 'CLEAN UP TRAINING INSTITUTE MESS'

* See PMW item 2680, 1762, 1756

SUVA (PMW): The Fiji Islands Media Association has appealed to the Information Ministry for help after being ordered to vacate its Fiji Journalism Institute office in suburban Suva amid controversy over its finances, according to media reports.

Reporting that FIMA was losing the institute in a news story on 4 October 2000, the Fiji Times also called in an editorial for the association to "clean up its mess".

The office which housed the institute is now being used by the Fijian Affairs Board with the permission of the Public Service Commission, the newspaper reported. The institute has not been used for 12 months.

Association president Rita Narayan was quoted by the newspaper as saying that "no reason" had been given for the takeover of the premises on September 26. FIMA is the local Fiji media association affiliated to the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA).

"It's time for journalists to take a long hard look at themselves," the Fiji Times said in its editorial.

"For years they have led the charge against corruption and abuse in the highest offices of the land."

The paper cited leading exposes by the media industry such as the Fiji National Bank scandal, travel rorts in the Rabuka administration and alleged "misdeeds associated with deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's home".

The Fiji Times also said how it had become common in newspaper letters and on talkback radio shows for citizens to highlight corruption.

"Gone are the days when a chief, lawyer, doctor, teacher or policeman was respected for the position he held and a blind eye turned towards his abuse of office," the paper said.

"This has been the work of a free and independent media and for that it must be commended.

"But reports that the Fiji Journalism Institute has been evicted from its offices are disturbing.

"Even more so are revelations that it has not been used for more than 12 months.

"Some of the lecturers remain unpaid two years after providing classes for young journalists.

"The institute's parent body - the Fiji Islands Media Association - has been plagued with financial problems.

"For more than 18 months unsuccessful attempts have been made to call a general meeting or provide audited accounts.

"This is unacceptable."

The Fiji Times added that journalists had a duty to uncover and highlight public misdeeds.

"It is therefore imperative that their house be put in order first," it said.

On 13 October 1998, the Fiji Times reported that FIMA had never been audited in eight years since it was established.

Ousted Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi in the Chaudhry government highlighted FIMA's financial troubles in April. The Daily Post on April 27 reported that FIMA was expected then to hand over a completed audit.

+++niuswire

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