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Row Over 'Open' Reporting Of Ausaid Media Workshop

Row Over 'Open' Reporting Of Ausaid-Funded Media Workshop

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): A Fiji Times reporter has been ordered out of an Ausaid-funded media workshop designed to "open up" communication between journalists and cabinet ministers in an incident stunning local news people, according to reports.

The Fiji Times reported on 20 April 2002 that its reporter Frederica Elbourne had been excluded from the workshop by an angry Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association (PIBA) chief executive, Jese Sikivou, who was unhappy with her front page report about reporters being barred.

A photograph published by the newspaper showed Sikivou, the workshop coordinator, "telling off" Elbourne after ordering her to "get out" on the final day of the two-day meeting.

In a letter to the editor complaining about the reporter, Sikivou said that PIBA "treats proceedings of all the training sessions we administer as being strictly confidential in order that the trainer, participants and resource people can speak freely in terms of asking questions and exchanging views and comments".

The workshop, following a similar one for parliamentarians, was funded by Ausaid through the Pacific Media Initiative (PMI) project managed from Melbourne, Australia.

According to the Fiji Times, Elbourne had entered the conference room at a hotel at the western tourist town of Nadi on the invitation of Information Minister Josefa Vosanibola and Director for Information Eliki Bomani.

"The two senior Information Ministry officials had apologised on behalf of ministers when they were told the media was barred from reporting on the workshop and ensured that reporters were allowed in at the closing," the Fiji Times reported.

"But she was told to leave and escorted out of the room by workshop coordinator Jese Sikivou.

"An irate Sikivou told Ms Elbourne he didn't need to tell her twice that she was not welcome to observe the workshop. He told her she needed training if she did not understand that much.

"He then asked her to send her high school examination results to him because it would make interesting reading for a newspaper front page.

"Mr Sikivou said cabinet ministers understood that reporters were not permitted to sit in at the training sessions and that the journalist was at fault for misinterpreting this.

"He told Ms Elbourne and her photographer to 'get out' of the room and speak with the ministers outside the conference room if they needed to.

"Sikivou accused her of inviting herself to a cocktail hosted by the hotel manager the night before."

The Fiji Times reported that Sikivou said media resource people - including Fiji Television news editor Tukaha Mua and the editor of the Fiji Sun, Samisoni Pareti - were sworn to secrecy and told not to discuss what they had heard at the conference.

Sikivou was reported as saying that the resource people had signed a secrecy agreement based on a directive from Vosanibola.

But both Vosanibola and Bomani denied issuing any directive. Vosanibola said questions had been raised at Thursday's session about why the Fiji Times and Daily Post were not allowed in.

+++niuswire

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