#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Departing Fiji Times editor: 'We were always willing to print both sides'

Monday, October 11, 2010

Departing Fiji Times editor: 'We were always willing to print both sides'

SYDNEY (The Australian/Pacific Media Watch):  Netani Rika, the former editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times, has accepted an offer from the Australian National University.

He will spend time in Canberra writing his account of the almost four years he has spent contesting military government control of the media.

ANU professor of Pacific and Asian history Brij Lal was expelled from Fiji last November following critical remarks concerning the expulsion of the Australian and New Zealand high commissioners. Professor Lal, now an Australian citizen, was born and educated in Fiji.

Rika, aged 44, who is married with three children, said that "doing some reflection at the ANU is something I'd like to do". But before that, he said, "there are certain things I need to put in place before I can clear my mind to do something like that".

He said the period since the military coup of December 2006 had been "my most tiring period of work in my 22 years as a journalist".

Rika said the pressure had been relentless: "In the beginning, there were physical attacks, then legal action, and finally legislation (a Media Decree) that forced the sale of the company."

Rika told
Media, in the first interview since he was pushed out of his job last week, that he had not been tempted to back down from confrontations with the military regime in favour of a quieter life.

"There were always people who said, 'just give it up'. But it was from the start a collective decision that we made at the paper, to keep telling the truth as we saw it," he said. "All the people who made the decisions were locals, and at each stage we revisited the original aim and said we would remain on course. And we did."

The newspaper was recently sold by News Limited (owner of
The Australian) -- a move forced by the new Media Decree banning foreign investment above 10 per cent -- to the Motibhai group chaired by Mahendra "Mac" Patel.

The military regime, which withdrew all government advertising from the paper, was especially incensed by the
Times' description of its ministers as "interim".

But Rika said that when the military authorities in April last year abrogated the constitution, the President stated that the new administration had been appointed on an interim basis. And that had not changed.

"We were always willing to print both sides of the story. But the censors allowed only one side," he said. In such cases, the paper spiked the stories altogether to spare readers being misled.

His deputy, Sophie Foster -- also perceived as inadequately sympathetic by the regime -- went on leave when Rika was asked to resign and appears unlikely to be allowed to return.

1 comment:

Jake said...

There is no great loss with Rika’s departure in fact the Fiji time can get on with the business of reporting the news with integrity and not some cockamamie news thrown together by Rika and company.

One thing is for certain he will be in very good company with the rejects at ANU.