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Freelance cameraman denies misleading NZ TV report

Freelance cameraman denies misleading NZ TV reports

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* See PMW reports 3141, 3140

SUVA: A freelance cameraman in the northern Fiji Islands town of Labasa who is being questioned over a television report broadcast in New Zealand last month said there was nothing misleading about what he reported.

Jyanendra Sharma, 29, of Bulileka, Labasa, said he took pictures of what was a "scary" military exercise held on a public road in Bulileka on 1 November 2000. [The controversial footage was broadcast in a New Zealand TV3 news bulletin on November 29.]

He said the military should investigate why its officers in the northern
island of Vanua Levu did not inform the public about the exercise which caused "unnecessary panic and fear".

"My story was based on that. Why was the public not informed about the exercise? It scared a lot of people, including students and children," he said.

Sharma claims the exercise involved about five armed masked men in civilian clothes who were screaming and firing in the air on a public road at Bulileka.

"This all happened in a densely populated area. There are three kindergartens, a primary school and a high school in the area," he said.

"And of all places, why have it in a public place? I called police that day but they were not even aware of it."

"The students were scared and crying," said Sharma, who is contracted by the TV3 station.

He said he learnt of it being only a military exercise after making inquiries that day.

"I'm a newsman and I was basically doing my job. And we all know what happened the next day at Nabua, in Suva, where Fijians shot Fijians," he said.

Sharma, however, disputed claims of the report saying there was a shoot-out between rebels and soldiers and of people being killed.

He said police questioned him over the contents of the report but did not charge him.

"I'm here at home and waiting. The military should do an internal investigation. They should not have done anything like that, especially after all that has happened since May 19," he said.

Military spokesman Liuetenant Ilaisa Tagitupou, however, said Sharma should have "done some investigation" before sending the footage to New Zealand.

"As a journalist, he should have done his homework. How could TV3 have come up with a story like that?" he asked,

Senior Superintendent Mosese Sagoa said police had not completed the investigation.



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