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Fiji TV Reporter Stands Firm On Doctor Controversy

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by Shivanjani Naidu and Aliti Tuviniyavi

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji One television reporter Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum is standing by his reports on the doctor shortage at the Valelevu Health Centre despite allegations of bias and racism levelled against him by Health Minister Solomoni Naivalu.

During parliamentary debate on Wednesday, the minister accused Khaiyum of lying and being an "anti-Fijian reporter". He labelled Khaiyum's report "slanted, incorrect, anti-Ministry of Health, and anti-government".

In an interview with Wansolwara Online, Khaiyum said: "I am a professional journalist and I make sure that I get my facts right before running any story. I have been working as a journalist longer than he has been a parliamentarian."

Khaiyum said that this was the third time in a month that Fiji One had done a story on the health centre. The doctor in charge that Khaiyum first interviewed told him that the doctor shortage problem at Valelevu had persisted from the time he started work there three years ago.

The reporter was also informed that the Valelevu Health Centre serves around 60,000 to 70,000 people and should have a quota of seven doctors. The centre receives around 700-800 patients a day with the two doctors stationed there having to attend to about 300-400 patients each daily.

Khaiyum said this time he could not get an on-camera interview with the doctor, who was brought in from Navua, because he was too busy attending to patients.

Naivalu disputed Khaiyum's report in Parliament, saying that on the day in question some doctors were on leave and one was attending a conference in Geneva.

He added that there were two doctors working on Monday, three on Tuesday and five were expected to be back in full operation by the end of this week.

"There has never been an occasion where there was only one doctor at the Valelevu Health Centre," the minister said.

Khaiyum said that for the minister to say that "I lied is deplorable because I do not lie but take a lot of pride in my work".

He dismissed allegations that he was anti-Fijian as "rubbish, absolute rubbish" and objected to being described as "that Indian reporter".

"I'm from Fiji not India, and I absolutely hate it when people call me Indian because I consider myself an Indo-Fijian. It is one thing to criticise a story but to make remarks concentrating on race is not on."

Khaiyum claimed that after the story went on air, the ministry had taken to recruiting doctors from other stations to work at Valelevu. The minister denied this.

Efforts to get a comment from Valelevu Health Centre were unsuccessful.

A Wansolwara journalist who called the centre was asked by one of the officials: "Who is this? Why do you want to know? I am not in a position to say", before the phone was slammed down.

Fiji Television chief executive Ken Clark said Fiji One stood by its story.



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 based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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