#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-04-04

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Professor alludes to restrictions on foreign media reporting on Fiji

A professor at the Asia Research centre at Australia's Murdoch University in Perth, says it's highly possible complimentary legislation - aimed at restricting how foreign reporters cover news - may follow the proposed media decree.

Professor Gary Rodan told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that the regulations in Singapore eventually led to the strategic control of all domestic media in that country being in the hands of government-linked companies. It had originally started with newspapers.

Asked if there was a danger such laws could encourage the media to become more closely aligned to the government in Fij now that the interim government has adopted the Singapore model, Rodan said the potential was obviously there.

Rodan went on to tell Pacific Beat's Bruce Hill that there is not much holding to account of the government in Singapore.

He says the domestic media, particularly the daily English language newspaper, The Strait Times, the editor and the editors over time have been quite clear that they see themselves as part of a nation-building exercise.

Rodan says this means they don't claim that they have completely unrestrained free press or any obligation to provide that. Instead, they see  themselves working in concert with the Singapore Government and refer to this as responsible media.

Says Rodan: "If there is any accountability, I think it would not be unreasonable to say, that to some extent the media is accountable to the government for what it does and its senior editors don't have a real problem with that, and the appointment of editors and senior people in these media organisations is considered a very sensitive political and strategic exercise and is approached accordingly by the Singapore Government."

When asked about the Fiji model, Rodan said: "I would be concerned if I was a Fijian who wanted to see a robust and free domestic media."

He added: "One also has to keep in mind that the other dimension to the media and the way the media operates in Singapore is how the international media has conducted itself. They have not been able to escape quite tight controls in Singapore, so foreign correspondents and reporters who may be writing for organisations that are not based in Singapore have been affected by these controls as well.

"So it may not, if the intent in Fiji is to follow the Singapore model, there may be complimentary legislation down the track that would be intended to tighten up on the way in which foreign reporters might be reporting news or interpreting news and it might not just be an agenda that is directed at local ownership."

The decision by the illegal regime's attorney general, lawyer, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, to adopt the Singapore model has been widely criticised this week by New Zealand and Australian media, NGOs and Fiji citizens.

Usaia Pita Waqatairewa, the president of the Fiji and Democracy Movement, described the decree as predictable and unoriginal on his page on the Matavuvale blog, saying he'd read the blueprint - Lee Kwan Yew's book,  From Third World to First, in 1998.

"Reading it will open your eyes to their grand plan," says Waqatairewa. "Only problem is that Singapore is not Fiji. We are not strategically located in the Strait of Malacca and we have an indigenous majority population."

Waqatairewa (pictured above) says self-appointed prime minister Frank Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum had borrowed heavily from Lee Kwan Yew because they didn't have the vision to come up with something original of their own.

Editor's note April 19: An earlier version of this story wrongly attributed Pita Waqatairewa's comments to someone else. Apologies for the mistake.

PINA pres and scecretariat accused of tolerating Fiji media restrictions

In a week where Fiji media are fighting for its survival because of the proposed media decree, the longtime and Suva based news organisation, PINA, has been told to put aside its tolerance of the Fiji media restrictions and pull out of the coup stricken nation.

The crticism has been directed at the president of PINA, Matai Akauola, and the secretariat - and comes from within its own ranks, PINA's vice-president  John Woods.

Wods, the managing director of Cook Island News, has gone public with his criticism saying PINA is ignoring the online discussion among Pacific journalists who want the it to fight the draconian decree, which threatens to imprison journalists, editors and publishers for up to five years and impose fines as heavy as half a million Fiji dollars.

Pacific journalists are also alarmed at the decree provisions that make it easy for the illegal regime to perpetuate its censorship policy by restricting foreign ownership of media organisations to just 10 per cent, a state of affairs which could force the closure of the Fiji Times.

In a story in his own paper, Woods is quoted as being disappointed with PINA's wait-and-see approach, saying it's critical the PINA board come out early and strong on denouncing the decree.

PINA's Fiji-based manager, Matai Akauola, was quoted by Radio New Zealand International as saying it's too early to adopt a strong position on Thursday.

"PINA would like to try to meet with its members, like Fiji TV, Fiji Times, Fiji Sun before we could come to a conclusion on how we see this media decree. You could just gather from the meeting that they have their own point of view, so it would be good to sit down one on one with the various organisations," said Akauola.

But Woods, who last week told media that PINA needs to be leave Fiji because it's 'cowtowing' to censorship under the illegal regime, says the organisation is too dysfunctional to be effective.

Picture: PINA's Matai Akauola (second left from back) with IFEX members Chris Warren of MEAA Australia (back), Owais Ali of PPF in Pakistan, Joel Simon of the global Committee for the Protection of Journalists, and IFJ international head Aidan White (front)

Regime hails World Bank report

The World Bank has told Fiji its priority is to build the economy.

The illegal regime met on Thursday with World Bank officials about the state of the economy and land reforms aimed at reviving the sugar industry.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation quotes self appointed prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama as saying the World Bank had given its support for the initiative and that plans were in place to help farmers.

He said the country’s economy had taken a hit over the past two years from natural disasters and the effects of the global economic crisis, but they were working hard to bounce back.

“As we’ve continually said we welcome the World Bank representatives to Fiji and apart from the global financial crisis the country is coming through and still recovering from national disasters that hit Fiji in 2009 and this year."

Read full World Bank Report on Fiji

Chaudry's millions classic example of why regime wants media decree

Remember the dreaded and un-elected Taliban when they were in power in Afghanistan. Their declared and publicly stated aim was to protect the sanctity of their women, so they professed. In order to achieve that aim, they promised to create a viable environment where the chasteness and dignity of Afghan women was to be once again, under Talibanistic decrees, being sacrosanct.

They made Afghan women to forcibly wear the burqa in public because the face of a poor and down-trodden Afghan woman was a source of corruption for men not related to the opposite sex. The rest is history. Any violation of the oppressive and undemocratic Talibanistic decrees was to result in flogging and execution, and there are countless statistics that the punishments were zealously carried out as decreed.

Now, in Fiji, the Bainimarama government, led by its Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has brought out the draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 which provides for the establishment of a Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) to “encourage, promote and facilitate” news media organisations and services at a “high standard” and a statutory Media Tribunal to judge complaints against media.

 Like those poor and abused Afghan women, we are told that the Media Decree is needed to protect ‘Mother Fiji’ from the Fiji media, which is corrupting the moral fibre of the nation. While Bainimarama wants the media to be loyal to Fiji (to mouth and laud his actions), his chief law-maker Sayed-Khaiyum said the decree would establish a media code of standards in ethics and practice while emphasising “fair, accurate and responsible reporting”. Among many sinister recommendations, but one already in practice, is the demand in the draft Media Decree that all news reports publish a “byline” identifying the author.

And here we come to ‘Chaudhry’s Secret Millions’ which carried Victor Lal's by-line for nearly 14 months in the Fiji SUN (2007-2008) but a story which the interim regime of Bainimarama chose to ignore or investigative. Instead, it went on to religiously defend its Finance Minister until the Fiji Times named Chaudhry as the Minister.

The next day LaI rovided concrete evidence to back up his investigative story, and indirectly saved the Fiji Times from Chaudhry’s billion dollar libel writ against that newspaper. This particular story is a classic example of how we will never, if the vindictive Media Decree is made into law, be able to read a similar expose in the Fiji media. It will be the death of investigative journalism, which is already non-existent under present media censorship.

 In other words, Chaudhry would have been one of the first, if not greatest beneficiaries, of the media decree if it had been in existence when the Fiji Sun first began running the story about a Government Minister and Tax Matters. He would have simply lodged a complaint against the Fiji Sun. For after all, Bainimarama had refused to dismiss him as Finance Minister, claiming the media had a hidden agenda against his interim government, and against Chaudhry.

And Lal would have been jailed, along with the publisher Russell Hunter, and the Fiji Sun fined thousands of dollars under this Media Decree- for disclosing Chaudhry's millions in a secret Australian bank account.

CCF's analysis of media decree

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum is urging the interim government to urgently reconsider
parts of the Media Industry Development Decree in order to protect
freedom of opinion and expression in Fiji.

Its chief executive, Rev. Akuila Yabaki says the Draft Media Industry Development Decree effectively replaces the restrictions under the Public Emergency Regulations and allows strict
media censorship to continue in Fiji.

"PER and censorship must be lifted so that the citizens of Fiji can enjoy the
right to receive and impart information and diverse opinions.”

After attending the consultation on Wednesday CCF is making the following submissions
and recommendations:-

Section 4(1) – If there is going to be a Media Authority, there should
be guidelines or criteria on who the minister should select for the
Authority. It should include the appointment of credible and experienced
people from the media industry.

Sections 6(2) and 9 be struck out to ensure the independence of the
role the Media Authority.

Sections 7(c), (d) and (e), s21, and 77(1) be struck out. Terms such as
“national interest”, “offends good taste or decency” are vague and
subjective and are not clearly defined.

 These restrictions violate the principles of the Charter
(Recommendation ii at p156 of the SNE Report:- “free speech and free
media are basic and inviolable principles… the media must not be subject
to censorship”); and

Art 19 UDHR (Freedom of opinion and expression).
The Penalties provided are not reasonable and proportionate to the
offence. A journalist should not be liable for imprisonment for up to 5
years for accurate reporting or for exercising freedom of opinion or
expression. The media organisation should be solely responsible for the
actions of its employees. All penalty provisions should be altered

 It should be a defence to any offences relating to content regulation
to prove that a publication was made honestly and in good faith.
Otherwise the media would not be able to accurately report on violent
crimes because they might offend ‘good taste or decency’ – surely this
is not intended and would be contrary to the public interest.

 Sections 16(1), 16(2) and 84 collectively prohibit accountability of
the Authority, Tribunal and the Minister making decisions under this
Decree. This violates the right to an effective remedy and the right to
a fair and public hearing before an independent tribunal. These sections
should be removed so that people have a clear right to judicial review.

 The broad powers given to the Media Authority under Part 5 are
concerning. Section 26 gives powers to officers or agents of the Media
Authority to enter, search, seize and use such force as considered
necessary. The right to life, liberty and security of person should be
clearly protected under this section to prevent officers using excessive
or unreasonable force. These powers are unnecessary and the Police
should be the relevant authority to carry out these powers.

 Section 48(3) allows the Minister to interfere with the functions and
powers of the Tribunal. This section should be struck out to ensure the
independence of the Media Tribunal.

 Section 77 should be removed. This mirrors provisions under PER which
allow government censors in newsrooms and duplicates existing powers
under the Public Order Act and the Crimes Decree. The power to shut down
all activities and operations for breaching of this section is excessive
and unreasonable.

 State owned media organisations should be required to operate under the
same rules and regulations as private media organisations for reporting
accurately and responsibly. Applying different standards based on
ownership is unjust and undermines equality before the law. The
exemption for state owned media organisations should be removed.

 In February 2010, the UN Human Rights Council strongly recommended the
Fiji Interim Government lift PER and media censorship. The proposed
decree does not ease media restrictions.

 “In order to meet its human rights obligations, the interim government
must address the concerns raised by the civil society, the media
industry and the international community about the independence of the
media industry and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and
expression”, says Yabaki.

 CCF says it would welcome open and inclusive dialogue and discussion on the
importance of freedom of expression and opinion before this Decree is

Friday, April 9, 2010

NZ's acting PM admits concern over Fiji media decree

The news organsation Radio Live says the acting Prime Minister Bill English is expressing concern at news of further restrictions being placed on media in Fiji.

Self-appointed Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama has released a series of decrees that media experts are labelling anti-democratic and highly oppressive.

Offences include criticising the Government and failing to run bylines in newspapers.

In an interview with Radio LIVE this morning Bill English was hesitant to say too much on the move, but admits it is a worry.

“We’d be concerned about a media crackdown in Fiji. It does look consistent with how the regime does business, but we need to get a clearer idea of what they’ve actually decided before we actually comment,” he said.

The Newspaper Publishers' Association chief executive and NZ Media Freedom Committee secretary, Tim Pankhurst, has been more direct with his criticism saying the media decree is clearly aimed at totally muzzling an already repressed media.

"It is disturbing that the regime is now moving to cement in place emergency regulations imposed a year ago that have seen censors installed in newsrooms," he said.

"Highly oppressive restrictions will be entrenched under a proposed Media Industry Development Decree 2010 that makes military strongmen the arbiters of independent, quality journalism.

"It not only targets editors and their journalists. Any members of the public brave enough to express dissenting views are also in line for crippling fines, ill treatment and jail."

Draft decree 'draconian and punitive'

Fiji’s draft media decree is draconian and punitive and will fail as a development communication model, says the head of the New Zealand-based Pacific Media Centre.

“Many aspects of the draft law are deeply disturbing and the harsh proposed penalties for editors and journalists who fall foul of the rules will curb any hope of a return to an independent Fourth Estate,” said associate professor David Robie, the centre director.

“This will be a blow to media freedom throughout the Pacific and provide a damaging precedent for other politicians keen to rein in a free press.”

The draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 provides for the establishment of a Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) to “encourage, promote and facilitate” news media organisations and services at a “high standard” and a statutory Media Tribunal to judge complaints against media.

Dr Robie also condemned the new provision restricting foreign ownership to 10 percent of a media organisation and directorships to Fiji citizens who have been residing in the country for five of the past seven years.

“This is clearly a vindictive section aimed at crippling the Fiji Times, the country’s largest and most influential newspaper, which is owned by a Murdoch subsidiary, News Limited,” he said.

“The regime wants to put the newspaper out of business, or at least effectively seize control.”

He said other media, such as the struggling Fiji Daily Post, which has a 51 per cent Australian ownership, would also be hit by this restriction.

Other concerns about the draft law cited by Dr Robie, who is also convenor of the PMC’s Pacific Media Watch project at AUT University, included:

•           Too much power being vested in the ministerial-appointed director of the MIDA and chairman of the Media Tribunal. Both agencies needed wider community representation and independence.
•           The power to investigate suspected breaches of the decree and to search and seize documents and equipment (with a warrant) – this would be the “death knell” of investigative journalism.
•           A requirement that all news reports publish a “byline” identifying the author.
•           The power to punish media organisations guilty of an offence under the decree with a fine of up to F$500,000, and individual editors and journalists with a fine of up to $100,000 or a maximum jail term of five years.
•           The power to proactively investigate a media organisation without a public complaint being filed.

“This opens the door to vindictive abuse in a climate of dictatorship and the singling out of media organisations that do not toe the regime line,” he said.

“There is a case to be made for better engagement by media on national development issues, but this should be achieved through more journalism training and education and more support for the country’s journalism schools and training institutions, such as the University of the South Pacific,” Dr Robie said.

“A government cannot legislate people’s minds. Much more can be achieved by freeing up the media environment, backing off from censorship and engaging with the media in a more cooperative manner.

“To get its own side of the story across, the Fiji regime should establish a national news agency like many developing countries do and let the media get on with its job of reporting unfettered in the public interest.”

Codes of ethics previously administered by the self-regulatory Fiji Media Council have been incorporated into the draft decree as statutory schedules.

It is not yet clear what future role the council would have as the authority and tribunal would overtake its powers.-Pacific Media Centre/Pacific Media Watch

Loss of 170 jobs if paper closes

The newspaper publisher News Limited could be forced to withdraw from Fiji after the military-led regime issued a draft decree effectively banning foreign ownership of media companies.

News Limited’s Fiji Times, which employs more than 170 people and a further 1000 indirectly, is facing closure under new rules that require media companies to be at least 90 per cent owned by Fiji citizens.

Already there is a ban in Fiji on “negative reporting”, media companies operate under strict military censorship, journalists have been interrogated and the Fiji Times has had two of its managing directors deported under the military rule imposed after Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a December 2006 coup.

In a statement yesterday, News Limited chief executive John Hartigan said News, also publisher of The Australian, was “very concerned” about the media decree “to retrospectively limit foreign ownership of media to 10 per cent . . . We have made representation to the Fijian authority to find a way to resolve the issues and are awaiting the outcome of those representations.”

Mr Hartigan warned that the decree “raised some important commercial issues for the Fiji Times that need very careful consideration”.

Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said the decree would establish a media code of standards in ethics and practice while emphasising “fair, accurate and responsible reporting”.

The decree would also establish a media industry development authority to monitor compliance with the code.-Geoff Elliott, The Australian

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gone Marama Bale Charges Changed

Fiji Coup 2006 is reporting that sources in Fiji have told it that Gone Marama Bale, Roko Rui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, appeared again in court today on charges of inciting public unrest under the Public Emergency Regulation.

The blog says this is the ninth time she has appeared in court on the charges. It says due to the clear lack of concrete evidence, prosecutors have now changed the charges and requested a further hearing in three weeks, where she is to be charged with conspiracy to defy the government.

Fiji Coup 2006 says the hearing started at 11am that there was a break in proceedings, with state prosecutors running around trying to drum up new charges because the current ones won't stick, due to lack of evidence.

It says it has been told the illegal regime wants to make an example of the Roko Tui Dreketi and is aiming for a prison term of two years, saying supporters were threatened not to mention the court case today.

The blog is urging people to denounce the kind of justice people in Fiji are now subjected to by the illegal regime, describing it as a kangaroo justice system.

"For the illegal Regime in Fiji the principle of  'Justice delayed is Justice denied' just does not apply in their perverted attempt to silence all those opposed to its illegal rule."

Fiji's junta leader chuffed at media decree progress

Fiji's junta leader, Voreqe Bainimarama, believes the country's media industry has a better appreciation of the government's interest in engaging with it after yesterday's public consultations on the proposed media decree.

He told the Auckland-based Radio Tarana today he was confident the discussions at the Holiday Inn in Suva, had helped industry stakeholders come to a better understanding of his government's aims.

Bainimarama said the government recognised the media's ability to shape public perception and the media, in turn, needed to appreciate where it was coming from.

"What the government is asking with this medica decree is for the media to take greater responsibility and ownership in shaping a new and modern Fiji ... to lay the foundations towards equality, fairneess and a greater degree of ethics and moral principles."

The self-appointed leader was unapologetic about the government's aims, considered harsh by many, and said those in the industry who were unhappy with the decree had to get over it.

"My message is for them to reconsider their position. They need to understand the big picture and how government wishes to engage with it to take the nation forward. Government cannot, and will not, allow vested interest to take over the national interest. The latter is paramount."

Bainimarama chuckled when he was asked about the future of the Australian-owned Fiji Times, under the proposed decree. He said: "That's a question for the Fiji Times to answer."

He went on to say: "The Fiji Times has to ask itself how is it contributing to Fiji's overall development?"

While the provisions in the proposed decree call for media organisations to be owned locally, Bainimarama insisted the regime wanted to attract investors to Fiji and it wanted them to succeed.

In the Tarana interview, he also maintained the decision to abrogate the constitution was that of the former president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, but proclaimed it was the right decision. He said it was neccessary to bring about a clean slate and to create an environment that would enable Fiji's growth and development.

Bainimarama said he was satisfied with the progress his government has made, in the face of many challenges.
"We have a fully independent judicial,  we have ensured law and order is in pplace and the focus is now on reform in the various sectors, in particular  the public service."

He said the government was working towards its election deadline of 2014 and a new and modern Fiji and that a new constitution was a prerequisite to those elections.

Deported publisher: media decree much worse than we thought

An early victim of the hardline media policies of Fiji's illegal government, says the proposed media decree is worse than expected.

Russell Hunter was the first of three Australian publishers to be deported by the junta in 2008, with the illegal government claiming he was conducting himself in a manner "prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, security and stability of the sovereign state of the Fiji Islands."

An Australian citizen, he was taken from his home and kept in custody until he was placed on a flight out of Nadi to Sydney. He had only $20 in his pocket and the clothes on his back at the time.

With Hunter at the helm, the Fiji Sun had published a number of investigative stories deemed anti-government, including accounts of the failure by then Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudry, to pay his taxes on time.

Now working for the Samoa Observer, Hunter says the worse provision in the proposed decree is the one that sanctions journalists and editors to be  imprisoned for up to five years and media organisations to be fined up to half a million Fijian dollars if they breach the code.

Hunter says the Fiji media is a shadow of its former self thanks to the censorship imposed under the Public Emergency Regulations and that the proposed decree will put it completely under the control of the illegal government.

He believes the decree will cause the industry to contract, with people going out of business and even more of Fiji's brightest talent heading overseas.

Hunter says the planned Media Industry Development Authority is very dangerous because journalists and editors will not be able to challenge any of its decisions in any court.

And he says the intent to have media organisations owned at least 90 per cent by locals, sends a bad message to investors (that there's no security in Fiji if the junta doesn't like you) and that aid donors will not be impressed.

Hunter believes the interim government already has someone lined up to take over the Australian owned Fiji Times. He says there's a good chance it will be a local but the regime could also venture outside of the industry to find the person who will toe the line.

He says the Fiji Times, the country's oldest paper, has essentially been expropriated by the junta and that while Rupert Murdoch would put up a fight, he's unlikely to move to Suva.

Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd issued a statement yesterday, after the decree was revealed at the first public consultation in Suva, saying it was 100 per cent behind the people of Fiji and was making representation to the interim government.

Two other publishers have been deported by the junta - Australians Evan Hannah and Rex Gardner from the Fiji Times.

Picture: Russell Hunter talking to media after he arrived back in Sydney

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Imprisonment and heavy fines sanctioned in new Fiji decree

As expected the interim government is proposing a Media Industry Development Authority, saying it's needed to ensure high standards of performance and to ensure that material which is against public interest or order are not broadcast or publicised.

All material must also carry a byline with news organisations facing a fine of up to half a million Fiji dollars or a fine of up to $100,000 Fijian dollars if the code is breached.

The decree also paves the way for publishers, editors and journalists to be jailed for up to five years for breaches.

As predicted, a tribunal would be established to hear compalints from the public, public officers or Cabinet Ministers.

Media organisations would need to be registered and require 90 per cent ownership by a Fijian citizen. Cross media ownership will also be monitored with a five per cent non-voting interest only, allowed in any other media organisation.

The Draft Media Decree says the Media Industry Development Authority will:
ensure that nothing is included in the content of any media service which is against public interest or order , or national interest, or which offends against good taste or deceny and creates communal discord.

This is very broad so it will be interesting to see what kind of stories come under this criteria. Censors are already stopping the publication of stories which make the interim government look bad; eg water and power cuts and bad road conditions leading to pot holes.

This clause really means any stories which the interim regime doesn't like because it exposes them or shows that they're not doing a good job, is not in their interest and offends them as it creates communal discord.

No proceedings, civil or criminal, shall lie against the Authority for anything it may do or fail to do in the course of the exercise or intended exercise of its functions, unless it is shown that it did not act in good faith or without reasonable care.

So basically what the Authority rules on a journalist or media organisation is Gospel and it cannot be sued. Lawyers know that it is hard to prove that an organisation or person did not act in good faith.

Every media organisation that provides or intends to provide media services in Fiji must be registered...

A media organisation is registered when the proprietor deposits with the Authority an affidavit or affidavits duly sworn and signed by the proprietor.

In all civil or criminal proccedings relating to any media organisation, an affidavit deposited under section 31 is conclusive evidence against every person signing it of the truth of its contents.

This means a media organisation will have to swear that it will follow by the rules and if it doesn't the Authority will be able to use the affidavit against them in a court.

In every media organisation - up to 10% of the beneficial ownership of any share or shares in a company or any interest ... may be owned by foreign persons but at least 90% ... must be owned by citizens of Fiji permanently residing in Fiji

A person who does not fall within the class ...respectively must resign or divest themselves of any directorship or ownership interest within three months from the commencement of this Decree

It will be interesting to see what will happen to the Fiji Times. Who will buy the shares, local businessman or the Government?

Read the full Draft Media Decree

Freedom to take the piss

Let it not be said that Coupfourpointfive is all dull preaching. We can do mirth as well.

The following letter touches on some of the big issues .... loyal citizens, regional collegiality, journalism of hope and, yes, Al Qaeda and threats against the state. It's being doing the rounds, gathering fans as it goes.

And with the easy millions of the Fiji Reserve Bank heading to the government coffers this week, this Bainimarama cartoon deserves another outing. Keep the faith, people!

Dear Commodore

Once again I come to ask for your forgiveness and your blessing. The problem is once again my small five-year-old son, Osama.

Recently he met a New Zealand boy of his own age called Alex. We call him Al, for short. He is a nice boy but we have faced problems because he is a New Zealander and because of his name.

 Al and Osama were playing together when Osama said that he was hungry. He called out to his friend,

“We need to eat. Come on Al, we’ll get some kai, we need food.”

Unfortunately for him and little Osama, one of your soldiers was standing near the two boys. He had been hoping to hear of the latest New Zealand plans to attack Fiji with weapons of mass democracy. At the same time the soldier was fondling himself and talking on a cell phone to his girl friend in the Middle East so he only heard the words Al and then Kai. Mistakenly, he thought he heard the words Al Qaida.

This soldier panicked and phoned the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, to tell him that Al Qaida terrorists were in Suva. 

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was concerned. He immediately prepared a short clear media release, saying it was possible that Al Qaida had infiltrated Fiji, but then it was possible they had not, but if they were, it could be Australia and New Zealand who were behind it, but then he could not be sure of this, but if they were not, then the opposite was true, that there was a possibility that he was right in his thinking, but he was sure that neither New Zealand or Australia had any right to interfere with Fiji or to even contemplate their impending hostile actions to infringe the democratic rights of Fiji citizens. He advised the embassy staff of both countries to desist immediately what they were doing to destabilize Fiji or face immediate deportation without any reasons being given.

Officer L. read the media release, cleared it for clarity of language and faxed it to the army media checkers at Fiji Times.  One of them read it and phoned up officer D. of the military intelligence unit who said he already knew of the threat and that he was standing outside McDonald’s restaurant in Suva watching the two boys inside planning a terrorist attack and also eating Big Mac hamburgers.

While officer D. was on the phone, a young reporter graduate from the University of the South Pacific newspaper overheard the conversation about terrorism. She asked if she could go to the restaurant and see if there was a story for publication.

She was told by an army officer said that there was no need to go to the restaurant. He advised her to immediately get to work and write the story. The reporter said she was unsure of all the facts of the story. This immediately brought a rebuke that it was reporters like her who brought the media into disrepute, that she should be ashamed to admit that she did not know all the facts and she was going to be reported to officer L. for failing to ascertain facts.

At that moment a large air-conditioned car stopped outside the newspaper office. A senior judge and a colonel got out. The judge remarked in a most cultured voice that is was difficult to work in Suva except in air conditioned surroundings, and that everyone in the country including the poor should have air conditioning at home and work, to improve their work efficiency.

The judge entered the editing room of the Fiji Times and called attention by whacking the tea ladies behind with his leather cane.  During the silence that followed he informed the reporters that he was there in his capacity as a judge to ensure the impartiality of all news, which he said lacked usually lacked impartiality.

As he was being informed about what was happening at McDonalds restaurant he scratched his head and a cloud of dandruff fell to the floor. The distraught tea lady thought it was smoke from a fire and ran from the room shouting… Isa… Isa. In the corridor she tripped over a sleeping soldier. He woke up, grabbed his gun and rushed into the newsroom with a war cry cursing Australian and New Zealand travel restrictions

The judge was panic stricken at being faced by a soldier with a gun, and unfortunately scratched his head again. Much more dandruff fell to the floor making it difficult for anybody in the room to see anybody else.

Someone shouted … smoke, smoke. The army officer who was outside McDonalds restaurant talking on the telephone to the newsroom heard the word smoke and immediately thought smoke…fire… I must do something.

He phoned the army commander at barracks to say Al Qaida terrorists were attacking the Fiji Times newsroom. Within three minutes from the phone call huge army trucks carrying dozens of army personnel with weapons were moving quickly towards the Fiji Times newsroom.

Osama and Al were still eating their hamburgers when they heard the military trucks moving down the road. Osama wanted to see the trucks and rushed outside. He shouted to Al to leave his kai and come outside. The army officer only heard the words Al and kai and made a wrong mental connection.

With the words Al Qaida ringing in his ears, officer D., who had worked in the Middle East  shouted an order. Soldiers fired their rifles at the McDonalds restaurant. The result was as you can imagine. Holes appeared in the windows of the restaurant and also in the numerous hamburgers that were being prepared.

But there was an even worse problem to follow. My small son Osama, rushed out in front of the trucks. He was squashed flat, but survived without injury.

My present problem is now, that Osama, who was a short fat little boy is now long and skinny as a result of being flattened by the big army trucks. He was taken to the hospital for a check up and left there by your kind soldiers. The doctor decided to keep him there overnight, but he is now so tall that he occupied all the space in Wards One,Two, Three, Four and Five and so was soon sent home.

My request is a humble one. I have no work and no income. Osama is now tall enough to be mistaken for a grown man.  He can go to work and earn money for my wife and myself. 

Would you please enlist him in the army?

Bainimarama tries to reassure Fiji over media decree

The Fiji Sun is reporting the interim prime minister, Voreqe Bainiamarama, is reasurring the nation the new media decree will set a better relationship with the media.

The paper quotes him as saying: “This consultation will cover certain aspects of the media which will improve the relationship between the people and the media outlets. Nobody is going to escape this consultation and there are ground rules for people of the press to speak on. They have no choice but to take part."

Media outlets including radio, television and print media, are at the first consultation which began this morning at 10 am in Suva, at the Holiday Inn. Consultations in Labasa are on April 8 and in Lautoka, on April 10.

Editor's note: For more on the media decree debate, see the Radio Australia story on Pacific Beat:
For over 12 months now, Fiji's local media and organisations like wire service Pacnews have been censored, with a ban on any negative story about the military regime and a directive that it practise a "journalism of hope". The interim government says the new decree will end that censorship.
Presenter: Sam Seke, Speaker: Campbell Cooney, Pacific correspondent; Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji interim attorney-general; Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, Fiji permanent secretary for information

Fiji media contend with new decree and Fussell story

The Fiji media are gathering today for a close up look at the interim government's new media decree, which will supposedly pave the way for the public emergency regulations to be lifted.

Today's discussions come as local media contend with a decision by the Australian owned and managed, Fiji Times newspaper, to step out of its comfort zone to air its concerns about the decree.

The story was headline news after the attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, yesterday called a special press conference to question comments by the Times publisher and managing director, Anne Fussell.

The Fiji Sun, the Times' rival, ran with a robust story headlined "Fiji Times Accused", quoting Sayed-Khaiyum as saying: “We are very concerned. This appears to be a veiled threat by the Fiji Times against the State.”

The Sun says Ms Fussell is the Fiji representative of Fiji Times owner News Limited, Australia’s most powerful news-paper company, acknowledging its efforts to get comment from her were unsuccessful. It said staff told it Fussell was the only one who could comment but refused to give her phone contact and that an email to her remained unanswered when it went to press.

It added that Ms Fussell arrived from Australia to be publisher and managing director of The Fiji Times early last year. This came after both her two predecessors, Australians Evan Hannah and Rex Gardner (pictured above packing up in January, 2009), were ordered out by the Government.

The coverage by Fiji Live was more reserved with the team going with the headline "AG questions newspaper's motives" and the line "Fiji’s oldest newspaper the Fiji Times has come under criticism from the government one day before consultations begin on a draft media decree."

It had Sayed-Khaiyum saying the one day allocated for consultations would be enough with copies of the decree released at 8am and consultations beginning at 10.30am .

Neither took the opportunity to endorse Fussell's call for the interim government to be more reasonable with the time it was allowing stakeholders to make submissions and neither did they question the overall intent of the new media decree.

With the departures of earlier publishers and editors, it's not the first time the Fiji media have had to report on one of their own since the Bainimarama government took power but it's hoped they - and other stakeholders - are more assertive in today's discussions and submissions. This is, after all, the last chance they may get to shape the news, legitimately.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fiji media decree consultations a sham

It comes as no surprise that there's blood on the floor a day out from the long-awaited and controversial media decree. Dissent is not something this illegal government tolerates.

So when the managing director of the Fiji Times, Anne Fussell, basically said it was stink that stakeholders would get just two and a half hours to make submissions, the loyal lieutenant Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was quick to quash her today.

But Fussell is right; the miserable two and a half hours is another attempt to control the process. She is also right to consider the affect the decree will have on investment and revenue sources coming into Fiji.

The outraged Sayed-Khaiyum took the concerns as a threat and seemed particularly stung by the Fiji Times' lack of respect. He told Fiji Television: “This is a media organisation that does not recognise the government, that does not call the Prime Minister the Prime Minister, does not recognise various other members of the government, yet we find suddenly they are worried about the economy and trying to link economy with the decree."

The talks start tomorrow and, supposedly, the Fiji Times will be allowed to attend. But like the recent talks with the Methodist Church leaders, this week's consultations will be a sham.

The Fiji government, thanks to Sayed-Khaiyum, is poised to issue policies and regulations based on the censorship codes Singapore introduced in the 1970s, where one ruling body approves and controls everything relating to media, from newspapers, radio, tv to the internet (even the arts) with a particularly  sharp eye on  foreign ownership.

The Government of Singapore has long argued that censorship of violence and sexual themes is necessary as the Singaporean populace is deeply conservative, and censorship of political, racial and religious content is necessary to avoid upsetting the balance of its delicate multi-racial society.

But the restrictions on the media is an authoritarian belief the government knows better than anyone how to advance the economic, social and cultural well-being of their peoples. Supporters say censorship helps promotes values such as patriotism, social harmony and economic growth but most people know the authority exists to keep the government in power and its hardline policies in place.

Like the misguided Singapore, the Fiji interim government would have us believe they are doing right by the people, by introducing draconian and inhumane regulations that rob us of our rights because they're trying to build us a better Fiji.

But who gave them the right to try and create this perfect Utopia? Yes, some supported the Bainimarama coup and feel dizzy with gratitude for the 'improvements' in the country (see the Facebook page for fans of Bainimarama) but the majority of us did not and remain unconvinced we are in good hands.

Sayed-Khaiyum and his hierarchy are naive to think the Anne Fussell's of this not-so-brave New World of ours will slink off quietly.

Decree talks off to a bad start

Fiji's interim government has taken a stab at the Fiji Times newspaper a day out from the public consultations for the new media decree.

The self-appointed government wants an from the newspaper following a recent comment by its Managing Director Anne Fussell regarding the new Media Development Decree.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation says Fussell had said the Decree could impact on potential investment and on revenue streams which flow on to the Fiji community through income tax and VAT.

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the comment could be seen as a threat by the Fiji Times.

“What we would like to ask Anne Fussell to tell the people of Fiji is what does she precisely mean when she says that the Decree will have impact on the investment and revenue streams that is flowing to Fiji. And indeed, she talks about tax and VAT. How is that going to affect the people of Fiji with this media Decree.”

Taking a swipe at the newspaper company the AG says the Fiji Times has had a negative mindset about Fiji.

"Firstly, the Fiji Times is the purveyor of negativity as far as Fiji has been concerned at least for the past three years. This is the media organization that does not recognize the government, does not call the Prime Minister - the Prime Minister - that does not recognize various other members of the government, yet they are concerned about the economy and trying to link the economy with the decree."

The public will be given the Decree at 8am tomorrow with consultation expected to begin at 10.30am.

Fussell has expressed concern that the public should have been given more time to study the Decree however Sayed-Khaiyum says the one day consultation will be adequate.-FBC

Picture: Anne Fussell (top right) in the Fiji Times newsroom with lawyer Richard Naidu and police spokeswoman, Ema Mua.  Bottom right: Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

New sugar cane council approved

The interim government of Fiji has formally approved the establishment of the Council of Sugar Cane Growers (CSCG) to administer the affairs of the sugar cane growers.

A statement released this afternoon says Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Prime Minister and Minister for the Sugar Industry, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The CSCG replaces the dissolved Sugar Cane Growers Council in the Master Award.

The Council will be made up of 11 members, eight from the growers (1 from each District), and three from Government (Commissioner Western, Commissioner Northern, and one from the Sugar Ministry), with one of the Commissioners to be appointed Chairman.

The government says Bainimarama as the Minister responsible for Sugar, will appoint the Board on the advice of the Permanent Secretary for Sugar.

Bainimarama says the Council will take any steps it sees necessary for the protection and development of the industry and the interest of registered growers.

Its particular role will be to provide advisory assistance to registered growers on goods and services relating to the business of cane-growing and agricultural diversification; and make representation to Government and relevant stakeholders in the industry to safeguard and further the interest of farmers.

“The Council will also promote peaceful co-existence and harmonious relations between all stakeholders in the industry; oversee the operations of the District Offices of CSCG; act as a primary source of information and advice to Government on matters pertaining to sugar farmers and the business of growing, harvesting and transporting cane; and establish, hold and administer funds and property for the benefit of registered growers.” 

Funding to meet the operations of the CSCG of about $500,000 and $600,000 per annum, will be met by the growers themselves through a general levy at the rate of about 24c/mt based on a crop size of 2.3million mt.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Reserve Bank millions to Bainimarama govt outed on Matavuvale blog

Details of the millions being transferred from Fiji's Reserve Bank to the interim government were first publicised last week on the Matavuvale blog, and picked up by Fiji 2006, but went undetected by the local Fiji meda. Here's the Matavuvale posting.

Bula vinaka to all Freedom fighters in this thread. I have copied below a release I received from a friend of a friend in Fiji. This man Reddy has no shame at all - he makes a big song and dance about the level of foreign reserves when everyone knows it is an artificial level of reserves. The major portion of that $1bio are made up of FNPF foreign investments that were recalled, and unrepatriated profits of the foreign owned banks operating in Fiji.

"The Reserve Bank of Fiji transferred $39,247,000 to Government today. This comprises its
entire profit of $16,600,000 for the financial year ended 31 December 2009 and $22,647,000,
which represents one fifth of the balance of the Revaluation Reserve Account. In view of the
prevailing weak economic conditions and tight fiscal position, the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board
decided not to set aside any profit to General Reserves but instead transfer the full amount to
Government. The transfer to Government in 2009 for the 2008 financial year was
$33,031,000 (profit was $30,460,000 and one-fifth of Revaluation Reserve was $2,571,000).

The Governor and Chairman of the Reserve Bank of Fiji Board, Mr. Sada Reddy said, 'The
2009 financial performance is a significant achievement when one takes into account the
global financial environment where interest rates were at historical low levels'. He added that
the outturn was much better than the Bank’s budget estimates and was greatly assisted by
improvement in the level of foreign reserves. In this regard, Governor Reddy said that 'Fiji
foreign reserves level moved above $1 billion for the first time'. The total foreign reserves
level at the end of 2009 was $1,097,844,000, almost twice the level of $568,691,000 a year

In accordance with the Reserve Bank of Fiji Act, the audited accounts and operations report
for the 2009 fiscal year were submitted to the Minister for Finance on 29 March 2010."

It is such people like Reddy who supports and props up Voreqe's regime. Be interesting however to see how long such injections of fund into the Treasury will last, or what percentage the Minister of Finance will pay himself from that. Na madua sa oti makawa, sa sega ni dua na ka e qai vo me tarovi koya e na gauna oqo.

I trust you all have had a great time of fellowship with God this Easter Friday. I have.

Reserve Bank transfers $33m including fiscal 2009 profits to Bainimarama govt

Given the tough economic conditions in Fiji, the country's central bank has transferred its total profit attained in the last fiscal 2009 and one-fifth of the balance of the Revaluation Reserve Account worth $33 million, to the Government.

The Reserve Bank of Fiji's Governor Sada Reddy (right) explained that it was done in view of the terrible financial conditions in the country. He said that the bank decided to not keep any profits in the general reserves. And thus, the entire amount was transferred tothe Government.

Out of the total amount transferred to the Government, the fiscal 2009 profit accounted to $30 million and the remaining amount accounted to one-fifth of the Revaluation Reserve.

"The 2009 financial performance is a significant achievement when one takes into account the global financial environment where interest rates were at historical low levels", said Reddy.

He further said that the total amount produced was greater than the estimations of the bank's budget and it brought with it improvement in foreign reserve levels. He also mentioned that the foreign reserves level has crossed the $1 billion mark for the first time.-Dominic Haber, Topnews.