#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Uncensored: editor refuses to give up fight

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Uncensored: editor refuses to give up fight

A HAND comes through a hatch in the wall, and each night journalists at The Fiji Times are obliged to deliver the page proofs of the next day's issue to the police censors corralled in a small office on the other side.

"The rules are a blanket edict that we not report anything bad about the Government," says Netani Rika, the Murdoch-owned paper's editor-in-chief.

But up to the point at which the proofs disappear through the hatch, Rika insists the Times will continue to function as a proper news paper.

He covers all issues, dispatching reporters daily to write what he believes should be reported. But he estimates that since the start of a crackdown on the media in April by the Bainimarama regime, more than 4000 Times reports have been blocked in the nightly carve-up.

Some evenings six uniformed censors present for duty, arriving between 7pm and 8pm.

"They say we can't report the details of a problem, but we can report the minister's response," Rika says. Rather than adopt the regime's insistence on what it calls "the journalism of hope", he has made the Times a politics-free zone. "We made a stand at the start - when it comes to politics, we must be able to report all or nothing."

Rika cites perverse examples of such a regimen. Last week the military was finalising a $F11 million ($6.5 million) salary adjustment for soldiers, but the story was pulled by the censors - even though it was based on a media release issued by the military chief-of-staff. "The army obviously wanted people to know, but the censors didn't - because of downsizing and spending restrictions elsewhere in the civil service," Rika says.

A story on a boy who could not sit school exams on one of the northern islands, because a breakdown prevented his village boat from delivering the papers, suffered the same fate as it reflected on the education system.

Revealing a blacklist of Fijian figures who could not be quoted and, in some cases, whose image could not be published, Rika says: "If you are not onside with the administration, or you are seen as an enemy or undesirable, there is no way the censors will allow you to have a voice.''

But the censorship straitjacket is preferable to the regime's ''journalism of hope'' halfway house, he says. "What we can't risk is self-censorship. Do that and we'd be rearing a generation of journalists who would hesitate before writing - they'd be a pretty tame bunch by the time democracy returned.''

The Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, issued a decree last week that observers say would empower the regime to bump television stations off air. He also said only two media outlets were the primary targets of censorship laws: The Fiji Times and Fiji TV, which competes with the government-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation - where Mr Sayed-Khaiyum's younger brother, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has been installed as chief executive.

Lambasting the Times for not reporting the regime's activities, he told the Herald: "So you can imagine what they were like before there was censorship. These two outlets didn't have independence in the first place" - Sydney Morning Herald


Anonymous said...

Who else is bored with the pompous Netani Rika and his self righteous, self serving nonsense? Anyone would think from the way he talks that the Fiji Times is the great oracle. Truth is It's a trashy rag and has been for decades. The standard of journalism is pathetic and so is the posturing of the idiot who edits the paper. Wouldn't even wipe my nethers with it. You keep those cub reporters busy, Netani. At least it'll keep them off the streets. God knows, there's enough scented tarts out there on a Saturday night.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sick of the Fiji Times too. Pick it up and there's nothing worth reading. What's the point of writing all those stories that we can't read? Can't you guys just get smart, do stories on politics that get through the censors but find ways to get the real message across in a subtle way? Even the dumbest people can read between the lines. Just ignoring politics is making you guys irrelevant for ordinary readers like me. I now buy The Sun but it's sad that a paper that's been the voice of Fiji more 140 years is so stubborn and so weak. Just so Rika can play hero.

Anonymous said...

No one else Anonymouse except the lot of you wiping off cranky franky's weli, lol!

Where've u been all this time? The standard of journalism that you're referring has been COMPROMISED BIG TIME by your cranky franky. Oh I geddit, u've been too busy wiping off the pig's weli 24/7 to notice what's really happening on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Oi, what have you got to laugh out loudly about, anon at 10.53? Oh I get it. You've just looked down at your own weli and can't see it because of your kete levu. The laugh's on you big boy (not). lol

Anonymous said...

Much as I feel story for Netani Rika, he doesn't seem to grasp that even some of the region's most advanced countries like Singapore and Malaysia have clearly defined ways in which the media can behave. These are two countries with similar challenges to Fiji when it comes to maintaining racial harmony. I don't understand why Netani seems to compare Fiji to Australia and NZ when it comes to media freedom rather than other places in the neighbourhood. He'd have been in jail in Singapore long ago, never mind in a dictatorship like China. I think it's the standard of local journalism he should be more concerned about. Notwithstanding the censors. most stories in the FT are either pathetic or totally banal. It certainly isn't the paper it used to be.