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Chaudhry Accuses Fiji Times Of Editorial Malice

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* See earlier report:

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): Former Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has accused the Fiji Times of editorial malice in its news coverage and an editorial attacking his speech about the neglect of the west.

In a letter to the editor published on 13 February 2002, Chaudhry claimed the banner news headline on the front page report, "Message of hate", was hysterical and distorted his speech.

An inside page editorial accompanying the news story on February 11 also carried the headline "A message of hate", claiming Chaudhry was stirring up westerners against eastern Fijians.

Chaudhry wrote in reply: "Your news report committed the cardinal sin of editorialising a hard news story while your editorial can only be labelled as hasty, hysterical and lacking in any rationality.

"It takes my comments out of context in order to justify yet another malicious attack on me.

"What I said in my address was the truth, a historical fact."

The Fiji Labour Party leader, whose power-sharing constitutional challenge against the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is being heard by the Court of Appeal this week, wrote that it was obvious from the "vicious reaction of your editorial writer that the truth in this case is quite unpalatable".

"No number of vituperative editorials from The Fiji Times can alter the facts of history," Chaudhry wrote.

"The truth In undeniable.

"Twice in the recent history of Fiji, democratically elected governments from the west have been overthrown at the point of a gun - the government of Dr Timoci Bavadra in 1987 and the People's Colaition Government in 2000 - elected on an overwhelming mandate by the people of Fiji.

"It is no coincidence, as I said in my address, that both these governments were headed by prime ministers from the west.

"The Fiji Times might like to explain to the people of Fiji, and particularly those from Ba, why every time a government headed by someone from the west takes office, it is violently overthrown."

Chaudhry wrote that it was a "fact" that Ba people had been neglected and denied their rightful place in the governance of Fiji.

"Your editorial attempts to confuse the issue by throwing in a red herring about Fijian and Indian race relations," he wrote.

"This is not at issue here and I made no mention of this in my address to the people of Ba at the historic occasion of the opening of the chiefly bure at Sorokoba."



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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