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Fiji Times condemned over 'security threat' report

Fiji Times condemned over 'security threat' report

5 March 2001

* Pacific Media Watch Online:
* Post a comment on PMW's Right of Reply:


* See Pasifik Nius and PMW items 3248, 3226, 3171, 3166, 3165

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch). - Fiji's ousted elected Prime Minister
Mahendra Chaudhry and the military forces spokesman have condemned a
Fiji Times newspaper report claiming that Chaudhry was a "threat to
national security" if he returned as prime minister, according to media

The Sun reported on 5 March 2001 that the front page coverage in the
Sunday Times the previous day was condemned by both Chaudhry and
military media spokesperson Captain Ned Taito.

The Sunday edition report was written by senior journalist Margaret
Wise. Both her and her newspaper, The Fiji Times, have been at the
centre of controversy over coverage of the attempted coup by George
Speight on May 19 and reporting on the Fiji Labour Party-led coalition
government while it was in office.

The newspaper and reporter had been accused of bias by a University of
the South Pacific media academic at a conference of journalism educators
in Mooloolaba, Queensland, last December.

The Sun quoted Chaudhry criticising The Sunday Times over using an
unnamed military source for such a report.

He described it as a "preposterous statement", saying people wanting to
make such comments should go on record.

Chaudhry also called on news media groups to follow "fair journalism

He said that at no stage had the military told him he was a threat to
national security, adding that he had always worked for national peace
and reconciliation.

The Sun quoted Captain Taito as describing The Fiji Times report as
"misleading". He said the military had not issued such a statement.

"We can't understand how a paper can go and publish a story without an
official spokesman's statement," said Captain Taito.

"We have at no stage had meetings, issued [media] releases or told
someone that Chaudhry is a threat to national security."

The Fiji Times carried no matching report about the responses of
Chaudhry and the military media spokesperson. The original report by Ms
Wise carried no balancing statement.

* On January 26, the Fiji military and the ousted elected government
both accused the Fiji Times of misreporting, calling on the newspaper
and other news media to be "more responsible" over reports about an
apparent ultimatum to the interim regime during a presidential briefing.
The military had reportedly said it would maintain law and order for a
constitutionally legal government if the Court of Appeal Court upheld a
ruling that the administration was illegal.

The newspaper had also reported that the military would seek foreign
help if needed to maintain national security.

During the Court of Appeal hearing, Queen's Counsel Geoffrey Robertson,
the lawyer for the refugee farmer Chandrika Prasad challenging the
interim regime, was critical of The Fiji Times' reporting.



© Scoop Media

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