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FWRM Appalled At “Gutter Level” Fiji Sun Report On Mereseini Vuniwaqa

15/08/2021

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is appalled with the continued attacks and character assassination of some of our women parliamentarians by some in the mainstream media.

FWRM especially condemns the latest smear campaign against the outgoing Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa, in yesterday’s (Saturday 14/8/21) Fiji Sun (“the Fiji Sun”) Weekend newspaper. The Fiji Sun report, with carefully chosen photos against Ms. Vuniwaqa, is mischievous and makes lurid suggestions about her personal life that are unsubstantiated and clearly breach the Media Code of Ethics and Practice not to mention her right to privacy. Ms Vuniwaqa’s personal life is only a matter of public or national interest if there are some breaches of law or misinformation on her part - which the report does not show. None of what the Fiji Sun has reported is in the public interest or suggests that Vuniwaqa has acted unlawfully in her role as a Member of Parliament.

It appears from recent events that the outgoing Minister has been targeted by her political foes because of her lack of support of the recent amendment to the ITaukei Land Trust Act No 17 of 2021 popularly known as Bill #17. Women parliamentarians have to overcome more challenging obstacles than their male counterparts to enter and stay in parliament. Unfair public scrutiny, irrelevant comments about their dress, personal criticisms and sexual innuendos of the type seen in the report, not only damage personal and family lives but also discourage other women from standing as candidates in a male dominated institution.

“This type of gutter reporting should be strongly condemned by all, as indeed has been done by many on social media platforms. It is unacceptable and detrimental to the great progress made by our women parliamentarians in the last decade,” FWRM Board Chair Makereta Waqavonovono said.

It is unfortunate that our journalists are not abiding by their code of ethics when reporting news stories .

Ms Waqavonovono also said such reporting deterred women in all diversities from engaging in political participation and national discussions at all levels.

Women in Fiji have made significant inroads in public and political life and have been prevented from having more elite portfolios due to sexual stereotypes that women can only “handle soft portfolios”.

“What is most concerning is that her case will discourage women from putting themselves forward for public and/or political positions because of the fear of being unfairly scrutinised in the media and other public platforms.”

We demand that the newspaper publicly apologise to Ms. Vuniwaqa.

FWRM also urges the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) as the independent media regulatory body to take action in regular monitoring of its guidelines and ethical standards of the print and broadcast media in accordance with the Media Code of Ethics and Practice.

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