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Chaudhry blasts SBS report on economic policy

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CHAUDHRY BLASTS SBS REPORT ON ECONOMIC POLICY


SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has criticised an Australian television news report over alleged bias and called on journalists covering Fiji's elections to make more of an effort to interview a wider variety of people.

In a statement last night, Chaudhry criticised an SBS-TV News report in which Australian journalist Christine Heard interviewed Australian businessman Mark Halabe.

"Mark Halabe is an opinionated Australian citizen who has publicly admitted his role in financing the coup makers in May 2000. He is thoroughly discredited," Chaudhry claimed.

"He is certainly not an objective observer of events in Fiji, so to ask him - and him alone - who should or should not be the next Prime Minister of Fiji seems to me to be quite absurd. The people of Fiji are making that choice right now.

"Halabe makes some points about my government's policies which thoroughly contradict statements he has made in the recent past. A journalist needs to research these comments and probe below the latest twists and turns to discover what was really happening in 1999, which was a period of unprecedented economic growth and rising standards of living for ordinary workers and farmers."

Chaudhry said Fiji was not an Australian economic colony any more.

"The days when the managers of Burns Philp and CSR determined the government's policies are long gone," he said.

"Our People's Coalition Government governed in the interest of the people, not the Fiji-Australia Business Council of which Mr Halabe is the spokesperson, although I wonder if he has the support of the Australian business community on this issue - most of them I know want a government that will restore international credibility and save Fiji's economy which is currently dead in the water."

During the Coalition Government's year in office, Chaudhry and some of his ministers often had a tense relationship with local news media but a generally more relaxed style with international media.

+++niuswire

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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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