I was inundated with calls from many people that I know of alerting me of a post on your blog, on Sunday 19th April, where a reader enquired why my weekly column published every Saturday, was missing in the newspaper’s edition of Saturday 18th April.
Your reader posed a question as to whether I had a one-track mind of being critical against the Interim Government, Mahendra Chaudhry and the Fiji Labour Party, and could not think of anything else or a topical issue affecting the lives of people.
To correct this perception, I did write an opinion (and did not lose my appetite as it is perceived). And I wrote about the problems facing the cane farmers and provided evidence as to why they cannot afford an 160% increase in the price of fertilizer even over a five-year period, as proposed by Dr Mahendra Reddy in his opinion (Getting it right now – Fiji Times Saturday 4th April).
And in conformity with a request by the Fiji Times e-mailed to me five days after the promulgation of emergency regulations, the opinion was not critical of the Interim Government or any politician but written after the Fiji Times of Tuesday 14th April highlighted on its front page that farmers need $13 million this season for cane planting.
The opinion was e-mailed to the Fiji Times on Friday 17th April as usual. But it did not appear on page 12 of Saturday’s newspaper (18th April). Instead an article about Hollywood actor Mel Gibson’s marriage woes was published.
Upon enquiry I was informed that the Department of Information’s Censor team had directed that the opinion be pulled out and not published. Similarly, another opinion scheduled to be published on Saturday 25th September was pulled out by the Censor Team from the Department of Information.
This opinion was about the recent increase in the price of fertilizer and provided facts in terms of dollar value to counter Sugar Commission Chairman John May’s theory that farmers would still benefit because devaluation would increase the cane price by $10 a tonne. This is absolutely incorrect for in the case of 12,366 or 66% of farmers who produce an average of 200 tonnes of cane every season.
I am unable to establish the identity of the editor or team members of this blogsite. However, in the interest of ethical media standards that your blogsite professes to uphold and practice (as prescribed on your home page), I hope my explanation is posted to clear all misconceptions.
Editor's Note - Refer to reader's letter on the blog, dated April 19, headlined Columnists Affected By Heavy Censorship