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Fiji Regime attacks independent journalists

Fiji Regime attacks independent journalists

Thu, 8 Feb 2001 09:09:24 +1200


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Regime attacks independent journalists

The regime has attacked foreign journalists for writing independent articles on the current regime. Two of the journalists have been attacked by the regime while a third has been attacked by the Fiji Times.

A Pacific Media Watch news story article states that three prominent "Australian and New Zealand journalists have been attacked by Fiji's interim regime and sympathetic news media, embarrassed by the country's poor post-coup international image."

It said: "Award-winning Australian investigative journalist Mark Davis came under fire in the Daily Post on 7 February 2001 over last month's SBS Dateline documentary on the plight of Indo-Fijian cane farmers." The Daily Post is owned by the state, while the current Acting Editor is closely related to the regime's Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

"Transcripts of the programme have been widely published on Pacific internet websites, including the deposed elected Fiji government, and email list serves."

"In a front page report under the banner headline, "Kubuabola slams coverage", the newspaper reported that the January 31 programme which portrayed Indo-Fijian cane farmers as landless, penniless and voiceless had been branded as "typical of the one-sided and ethnic bias" with which the land situation in Fiji was being "deliberately sensationalised".

The news report states: "The newspaper took the extraordinary editorial step of running the minister's political statement over much of the front page, mostly as direct quotes and with no other balancing interviews or comments.

Davis, a former Walkley Award winner, is highly regarded for his Pacific investigative reports, particularly in West Papua.

Also under attack is New Zealand journalist Michael Field, Pacific affairs reporter for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

In a Fiji Times letter, the regime, through the Prime Minister's Permanent Secretary Jioji Kotobalavu attacked Field over a report which described regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase as "isolated" at the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders in Honolulu.

Kotobalavu also took a swipe at reporters such as Field who were claimed to be "blinded by their own arrogant sense of self-importance."

"Perhaps New Zealand reporter Field so badly missed the disruptive influence of New Zealand and Australia that he started making false and malicious allegations and insinuations to make something out of nothing," he said.

Kotobalavu said that as a "palagi" (outsider), Field clearly had "no understanding and appreciation of Fijian and Pacific Island culture". The permanent secretary implied that the Kiribati Government acted correctly in barring Field from the South Pacific Forum last October.

Field is regarded as one of the more perceptive journalists covering the region.

Another journalist on the receiving end has been New Zealand journalist and author David Robie. Robie came under heavy criticism for a paper he wrote showing that the Fiji Times had launched a vigorous campaign against the elected People's Coalition Government. The Fiji Times had asked the USP, where Robie heads the Journalism School, to sack Robie. USP rejected the demand and stressed that it valued "academic freedom"

The news story stated: "Bitter personal attacks are characteristic of Fiji news media while issues are not well canvassed."


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