An article in the New Zealand Herald saying Netani Rika attacked bloggers at the Vanuatu PINA conference has been disputed by a source close to the Fiji Times editor.
The story was written by Dev Nadkarni, a former journalism lecturer at the University of the South Pacific's Journalism School, who is now living in New Zealand.
The Auckland based publisher of Pacific Business Online's piece was titled "Fiji's isolation must not be ignored by Pacific leaders" and appeared on Wednesday.
Nadkarni focused on the Pacific Forum Leaders Conference in Cairns, and the recent PINA Conference in Vanuatu, in particular Rika's speech and his exit from a panel discussion and the attendance of the regime's censor, former radio journalist and now a Lance Corporal in the military, Talei Tora.
He wrote: "While bemoaning the clampdown on the media, Mr Rika also criticised annonymous bloggers who further vitiated the atmosphere by giving credence to rumour and challenged them to reveal their identities. He requested the audience to treat the military personnel present there with respect for the duration of the convention, but left the panel after the presentation, saying he could not share the dias with them".
But a source disputes Nadkarni's interpretation of the Rika presentation and comments, saying Rika did not attack bloggers as has been reported in the Herald.
The source also says Nadkarni's opinion that Rika requested the audience to treat Tora with respect is also a misrepresentation. In his speech, Rika had said those people (Tora) who restricted their work in newsrooms (under censorship) were on the panel, have been accepted at the forum and allowed to have a voice as a member of PINA.
And while thanking PINA for allowing the regime's Information Ministry to participate in the forum, Rika sincerely hoped that they would return home and tell their bosses of the dignity, decency and respect with which they had been treated.
In walking out of the panel in which Tora was a participant, Rika said he was not comfortable in the presence of people "who will not treat us with courtesy at home (Fiji) but expect to be treated with respect off-shore".
The source accused Nadkarni of being a coup apologist.
Netani Rika was awarded the Tavake Fusimalohi Media Freedom Award for his courage and bravery, during the PINA conference.
Editor's Note: The Netani Rika presentation to PINA is right of the blog.
Coupfourpointifve emailed Dev Nadkarni twice for comment but did not hear back from him.