#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-04-11

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sayed-Khaiyum bollocks Fiji Times for not covering Food Symposium

The junta's attorney general has attacked the Fiji Times again, this time criticising the country's oldest paper for failing to file stories on the Food Security Symposium.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is quoted by the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation today as saying: “The point is that the Fiji Times does not does not want to write any stories, does not want to comment on any issues, does not want to cover any events – such as yesterday – if it makes the Bainimarama government look good.

“That is the bottom line and you will see the theme running throughout their publications for the last three years, irrespective of whether that agenda has a positive effect on the people of Fiji, irrespective of whether it will help economic development and advance investor confidence.

“The Fiji Times is not interested in those aspects. All they’re interested in is from a political perspective. That is their agenda.”

The Fiji Times editor in chief, Netani Rika, defended the paper, saying today's edition covers Bainimarama’s visits to Ovalau as well as other positive stories on the work of the government.

He says the Fiji Times has always contributed towards the welfare of Fiji and its citizens and it is the censoring by the government that prevents certain good stories from going to press.

“As for the food symposium, that was a very big event, there are some many issues that need to be covered from there, and it was just too much for us to handle yesterday with everything else that was going on,” says Rika.

“Our 43,000 readers will be able to read about that symposium in tomorrow’s paper providing the censor’s don’t take those stories out. We have described exactly how it is that we contribute to this country. We’ve done so for the last 140 years.”-Source Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

Editor's note: Some comments may not have appeared because of a technical glitch. Please resend

Prostitution law changes Fiji's night life

By Shalendra Singh of the Indian Weekender

Two months after a new anti-prostitution law took effect in Fiji, taxi driver Shiu Kumar says he sees fewer sex workers along Victoria Parade, the centre of Suva’s nightlife. But while this has had a negative effect on his nighttime fares, he is nevertheless happy about the law.

"This is a good law," he says, adding that over the years he has been disturbed by the sight of more and more young women taking to the streets.

It is not a view shared by everyone, though. Critics of the decree say that at best it is a stopgap measure and at worst it could increase the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, and of violence against sex workers.

"Prostitution is a social redistribution mechanism and to try and forcefully stop it can lead to some dire consequences," says Dr Sunil Kumar, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of the South Pacific in Suva.

Kumar is not wholly convinced by the 2009 Crimes Decree that government officials say is aimed at modernising Fiji’s criminal justice system to make it compliant with the Rome Statute on sexual enslavement, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In announcing changes in laws on sex work, Attorney General and Justice Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said in January: "As the laws stand now, it is only the prostitute that gets charged but the person procuring those services does not (so) the males get away while the females get locked up."

"This (decree) brings about gender equality in our criminal justice system," he had added.

For sure, the new decree now targets people who hire sex workers and all those who benefit financially from the trade, such as brothel operators and pimps. Even those living with sex workers are now liable under the new law, which took effect on Feb. 1.

Section 230 of the law’s prostitution offences says that a person living on sex-work earnings or persistently soliciting faces a jail term of up to six months. Previously, this offence was a mere misdemeanor, with imprisonment and the possibility of corporal punishment (for males) for subsequent offenders.

"Selling or buying" minors under the age of 18 years for immoral purposes is now punishable by 12 years’ imprisonment. Previously, these fetched a two-year jail term, with or without corporal punishment.
Brothel keepers face five years of imprisonment as well, or a fine of $F10,000, or both. This used to be a misdemeanor too.

Although statistics are hard to come by, a recent survey by the Fiji police yielded a tally of 116 sex workers in Suva and in surrounding areas. But this figure leaves out the foreigners in the local sex industry.

Police records show that between 2003 and 2008, only 11 cases of prostitution were brought to court. The low figure reflects how difficult it is to prove prostitution -- especially when it comes to foreign nationals, police say.

In February, the Fiji police conducted raids and arrested nine Chinese nationals with invalid travel documents. Among those caught were seven women who were engaged in sex work, officials say.

Fiji police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri says that it is usually harder to arrest and charge foreign nationals as they have "fixed clients" and usually operate from inside nightclubs, bars, and private premises. "It is well- organised," he said. "It is a racket."

Those caught often produce valid papers for being in the country, Sokomuri added.

But Peni Moore, spokeswoman for Women’s Action for Change, says that the law has only criminalised prostitution and forced it to go underground. This means sex workers would be even less willing to seek medical care, adding to the health risks they face.

Increased policing, harassment and exploitation of street-based sex workers are other possible unwanted side effects of criminalising the sex trade, Moore adds. Although the new law may help "ease the problem", the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) says that sex work is more than just a police matter and needs a "more sustainable" approach. Those who go into sex work often do so because of poverty and lack of access to education, adequate housing and job opportunities, activists say.

"Prostitution becomes a means of survival," says FWCC coordinator Shamima Ali. "To be able to curb prostitution, we need sound economic policies which offer better opportunities for women."

Poverty is the major cause of prostitution, Ali asserts, and prostitution will exist as long as poverty exists.
Economics lecturer Dr Kumar puts it this way: "While prostitution is looked down on by society, there are some positive outcomes from it that cannot be denied." He cites the example of single mothers who do not earn enough from regular work, or those who do not receive state social support. Some of them turn to sex work to feed and educate their children, he says.

Perhaps people are being too judgmental, Moore points out. "They do not consider the fact that some people are willing to work in the sex industry (and) they would like to receive the same conditions of employment other people do. They do not always want to be rehabilitated or saved."

Moore says her group supports what sex workers in Fiji want - safe working conditions and the decriminalisation of the industry.

Dr Kumar adds that while the new law is not an entirely negative development because it will act as a deterrent and protect minors, more needs to be done to address the root causes of prostitution, such as poverty and unemployment.

Shailendra Singh heads the University of the South Pacific’s journalism programme in Suva

Fiji media fights on for free press


Editors, broadcasters and publishers are struggling to defend the last vestige of a free press in Fiji in the face of a draconian media decree aimed at gagging two of the country's three daily newspapers.

Other critics of the military-backed regime also face a tough future.

The draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 features harsh penalties for journalists and news organisations which breach vaguely worded content regulations.

The decree warns media not to publish or broadcast material that is "against the public interest or order, is against national interest, offends good taste or decency, or creates communal discord".

It also caps foreign ownership in media organisations at 10 per cent.

Breaches under the decree can lead to a F$500,000 fine against news groups, or a fine of up to F$100,000 for individual journalists and/or being jailed for up to five years.

The government "consulted" news media and non-government organisations last week and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said some "useful suggestions" were being considered.

A further consultation is planned before the decree becomes law.

"We are coping by focusing on our principles (since getting balance is out at the moment) of getting important information to the public - such as health, education, the economy and industries," said Fiji Broadcasting Corporation news director Stanley Simpson.

"It is important also, despite not getting the other side/point of view, of letting people know what this government is doing, or aims to do, because - like it or not - they are in charge of the country's future right now."

Many critics see "vindictive sections" in the decree aimed at crippling the Fiji Times, the country's oldest, largest and most influential newspaper and 100 per cent owned by a Rupert Murdoch subsidiary, News Limited.

The regime wants to force the newspaper, founded at Levuka in 1869, to "change its mindset" - seen by the government as "anti-Fiji".

About 170 people are employed by the newspaper and their livelihoods are at stake.

Two Australian publishers of the Fiji Times have been deported on trumped up grounds since military commander Voreqe Bainimarama staged the country's fourth coup in December 2006. The High Court also imposed a hefty F$100,000 fine against the Fiji Times in early 2009 for publishing an online letter criticising the judges for upholding the legality of the 2006 coup.

David Robie is AUT associate professor in communication and director of the Pacific Media Centre.
Picture: NZ Herald, Greg Bowker.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

'Sorry' Rabuka planning a Tiger Woods press conference

Sitiveni Rabuka's apology is making news. The story was outed by the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation yesterday and after being run locally in Fiji, has now been picked up by New Zealand media.

In the Stuff website interview, Rabuka says point blank: ''What I did was wrong." And as he told Fiji media, Rabuka told Stuff his contrition came after the junta stripped him of his pension and his car earlier this year.

''I felt justice had finally caught up with me,'' he said. ''I was receiving something I had unfairly gained.''

Rabuka now aims to hold a "Tiger Woods press conference'' ahead of the 23rd anniversary of his May 14, 1987 takeover.

Rabuka, as a lieutenant colonel in the Royal (now Republic) of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), forcibly ended the Indian-dominated Fiji Labour Party (FLP) government of Dr Timoci Bavadra a month after it was elected.

He later won two democratic elections, but now says he had an unfair advantage over his rivals because of the popularity of his first two coups.

Rabuka said he was no longer trying to score points off the Bainimarama regime. ''I don't want anybody to do anything, this is just me,'' he said. ''Basically, my life is village life, my political life is over. I know my brand of politics is not right for this generation, not these people, not future generations.''

Bainimarama ordered the cancellation of pensions paid to retired politicians and in the case of Rabuka, even had his car seized, leaving him to be dropped off by the side of a road.

''I got dropped off and started walking back to the village,'' Rabuka said. ''When I started walking back, I started reflecting on what happened and this justice thing came up  it was the road to the village and the lights came.''

Yesterday Rabuka met up with the paramount chief of Vuda, Bavadra's vanua or tribe. ''On reflection what I did against the doctor was wrong, and I want to tell them that.''

In 1987 Rabuka was RFMF's third in command. He said he had now made peace with retired Lt-Colonel Jim Sanday, his immediate superior, and he had met the then RFMF head, Brigadier-General Epeli Nailatikau, now the military appointed president.

Rabuka has returned a tabua or whales' tooth given to him by Nailatikau when Rabuka became RFMF commander. Rabuka says now his installation as commander was illegal.

He wants to meet Bainimarama and the secretive military council.

''They probably still distrust me I want to go to them and say 'look you were all my subordinates at the time  I want to tell them I lead them astray'.''

He says he has no political message about the current regime or other coup plots.

''If people have been using my coup and saying 'that went okay, maybe it is okay to do another one', I don't want anybody thinking like that I want them to know that I know that what I did was wrong.'' 

The other side of Fiji’s media decree debate

Pacific Scoop:
Opinion – By Thakur Ranjit Singh.

As we approach World Media Freedom Day and the academics, media-wallahs, the saviours of a free press and a coterie of Bainimarama–bashing brigade head for the University of Queensland to mark UNESCO’s WPFD on 2 and 3 May 2010, we hope more light than heat comes out of this gathering. Focusing on Fiji’s controversial media decree in isolation is a sin many are expected to commit; hence this article attempts to provide some remote salvation.

Except for a period of time under Rabuka’s 1987 coups, Fiji media since independence in 1970 have been relatively free until the latest restrictions being brought about by Voreqe Bainimarama.

It would, though be wrong to say that there were no subtle controls under the democratic governments. As somebody who was “punished’ and removed from media by two diametrically opposed former Prime Ministers, perhaps I am well qualified to claim that I must have said or done something right. I was booted by the Mahendra Chaudhry and Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi brigade in 1999 from government-owned Radio Fiji for criticising Labour government for tinkering with the constitution and showing “disrespect” to Fijian chiefs and institutions.

Then in 2001, when Laisenia Qarase inherited political power through Speight’s ethno-nationalism, I was removed from the partly government-owned Daily Post as its publisher under the guise of “strategic improvement”. The real reason was that I as an Indo-Fijian who was an obstacle in the nationalists “befriending” the paper and also my refusal to apologise to the then Lauan Chief Justice Timoci Tuivaga for calling the Savua (Commissioner of Police during the 2000 coup) enquiry a kangaroo court and fraud on the nation.

Tuivaga had headed the enquiry held under camera, which cleared Savua of any wrongdoing. It looks ironical that when Anglo-Saxon and “foreign” media people get removed, it becomes an international media frenzy, yet while a local Indo-Fijian publisher gets removed in the process of ethnic cleansing from control of Fiji media, nobody gets to hear about it.

This brings us to a related, important and perhaps a sensitive issue that has escaped the radar of academics and the international media. That is the racial composition of Fiji newsrooms, and in particular those who are its gatekeepers, those who control the news content and discourse.

Divisive politics

After the unceremonious departure of Vijendra Kumar at the Fiji Times and me from the Daily Post, no Indo-Fijian has been allowed to take charge of any news media in Fiji until after Bainimarama’s 2006 takeover.

For a country which has been racially segregated from British days and has been racially split through divisive racial politics, the effects of the “race card” on the news content and discourse escaped scrutiny. Nevertheless, a number of studies have found sections of Fiji media wanting in balance, fairness and lacking proper journalistic principles.

Research after the Speight’s coup showed that large sections of Fiji media, under the control of indigenous Fijian gatekeepers, abandoned the principles of democracy in favour of ethno-nationalism, chiefly controls and indigenous superiority.

The problem with the western media – like its parachute journalists – is that they tend to view news as an event instead of viewing it as a process of development. Without doubt, the real appreciation of the Fiji situation has to come from those who are rooted in it.

In all the frenzy about the latest media decree, the best sense and appreciation came from a Fijian senior lecturer in Pacific Studies at Auckland University, Dr Steven Ratuva, who saw the happenings in Fiji as a form of revolution. He observed that in the recent past, major changes have been introduced, doing away with almost all the previous governing structures. He saw things taking place in Fiji as a development process over an extended period of time. He spoke about all the old institutions like the Great Council of Chiefs, the Parliament, the Cabinet, the President’s position, the judiciary and the civil service having been “reconfigured.”

Unlike most other academics, Dr Ratuva observed that despite international opposition, there was also support for the administration as in some areas it had done things, made improvements and brought changes that the previous elected governments failed to implement or deliver.

The problem with many speaking about media freedom is their lack of understanding, and perhaps also lack of appreciation about the cultural and environmental factors and the stage of country’s development.

Intricate relationships

As Dr Ganesh Chand, a former minister in Chaudhry’s deposed government and now the probable head of the Fiji National University observed, the smallness of the Pacific where everybody knows everybody hinders operations of a free press. This is coupled with the intricate set of communal relationships. These relationships of blood, custom and language can re-inforce the pressures that can make the very free press that in the west would champion democracy and development, champion anti-democratic forces in the Pacific

The suggested solution to overcome these constraints rests with a conscious press and well-trained journalists. While the Media Decree tries to push for a conscious press through inculcation of social responsibility, the major problem, as identified by the veteran media academic and the specialist in Pacific media, Dr David Robie, is the lack of priority on journalism education.

National development news and the attitude of journalists and media cannot be changed by decrees or laws but are best moulded in classrooms of journalism schools so that there is better engagement by media on national development issues and appreciation of cross-cultural sensitivities in a multiracial country. He called for more support for the country’s journalism schools and training institutions, such as the University of the South Pacific (USP).

What would intrigue many is that NZ and Australian funding agencies are apparently trying to sabotage and frustrate USP’s well established and equipped journalism training facilities by supporting other lesser equipped parallel institutions.

One conference at Victoria University in Melbourne the other week on ‘Oceanic Transformation” observed that Fiji media has failed to educate and inform Fiji people Fiji about democracy, which has resulted in its malfunction.

As that conference did in Melbourne, it is hoped the one in Brisbane also seeks to address the lack of understanding about the Pacific by Australians (and I add New Zealanders) who seem to learn less and less from their educational institutions and media about the Pacific.

In reporting on a coup in Thailand, one academic, Kalinga Seneviratne told how Thaksin, the then Prime Minister and the richest man in Thailand, manipulated democracy to create a one man rule.

Marginalised people

A similar story about Fiji failed to reach its own mainstream media as well as those in New Zealand and Australia when Bainimarama carried the overthrow of Qarase in a similar fashion where the powerful chiefs, the dominant Methodist Church, rich Gujarati Indian business community and the government machinery manipulated and marginalised half Fiji’s population under the guise of democracy through divisive race-based policies.

This author has been critical of so-called veteran journalists on Pacific who, with enormous power of their mainstream media monopoly organisations, failed to report on the other side of Fiji that would have reflected on development journalism with some principles of social responsibility spiced in.

Those journalists who today stand banned from Fiji for one reason or another need to reflect whether they have let their profession down by not telling the real or the other side of the “ Oceania” story that may have enlightened their governments to require and call for genuine democracy and governance rather than letting it operate as a sham of democracy.

Instead of emitting vindictive venom against what is happening in Fiji and making things worse for democracy and the people of Fiji, they need to appreciate historical perspectives and view things grounded in proper background information. And more often than not, such stories are best told by those who are grounded in Fiji.

Indeed, when journalists and academics meet in Brisbane to mark World Press Freedom Day, I hope there is greater debate on some form of development journalism with social responsibility of media in developing economies, rife with intercultural and racial issues with journalists lacking in proper media training.

Indeed, Bainimarama told local radio station Tarana that he recognised the ability of the media to shape public perception. What his government was asking through the media decree was for the media to take greater responsibility and ownership in shaping the new modern Fiji and to help lay a foundation that promoted equality and fairness and a higher degree of ethics and moral principles.

What is wrong with seeking for social responsibility? While I agree that this cause is justified, the means, though are warped but I feel open to diplomatic and genuine negotiations, as the decree is still in its draft form.

Shooting pellets and stink-bombs of academic and first world media rhetoric at Bainimarama would be ineffective, as he appears to have developed a thick skin, impervious to international grandstanding.

Who knows, as with most other happenings on ground and with its lack of analytical reasoning and investigation on Fiji, international media may even be unaware of that as well!

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a postgraduate media student at Auckland University of Technology, a political commentator and a former “deposed” publisher of Fiji’s Daily Post newspaper.

llegal regime admits to anomalies in draft media decree

The attorney general for the illegal government in Fiji has told local media there is no specific time frame on the implementation of the Media Industry Development decree 2010.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says his government is working on improving some of the anomalies in the draft, which emerged during consultations last week.

He said they are currently in the process of transcribing the discussions that took place and that participants will be given copies.

“There have been some useful suggestions that are being considered and we may need to go back to people who made those comments for clarification,” he said.

He says one of the anomalies is that the decree does not cater for ownership in more than one medium.

“For example, if I own a newspaper company or radio station, does my service also on the internet count as having ownership in another medium because as you know having cross ownership in media does not allow you to have ownership in more than one medium.”

He said this needs to be taken into consideration as a number of media organization have their usual publication method along with the same information being put up on the internet.

Asked about the future of Fiji Times Limited and the issue of the 10 per cent foreign ownership, he said it was a case of selling shares.

"It's not for me to speculate on what will happen or tell the future. That is the way to go and that is what we will focus on," he said.

Asked whether media companies could make further suggestions, he said people were free to contact his office with written or oral submissions.-Sources Fiji Live and Fiji Times

Gandhi and lessons for Fiji: Part Two

Mahatma Gandhi and Liberty of the Press: Lesson for Fiji
Part Two

The Indian Official Secrets Act was first promulgated in 1889 with a view to restricting information of military importance being published in newspapers. The amendment also placed civil matters, of public interest, at par with military matters. Thus the Government of India, under British Rule, was empowered to prosecute any newspaper it chose.

Among others, the great Indian nationalist Gopal Krishna Gokhale, whom Gandhi had earlier accepted as his mentor and leader, criticized the amendment by saying: “It is dreadful to think of the abuse of authority which is almost certain to result from the placing of Indian editors, especially the smaller ones among them, completely at the mercy of those whom they constantly irritate or displease by their criticism.” And again: “From the standpoint of the rulers, no less than that of the ruled, it will be most unfortunate if Indian papers were thus debarred from writing about matters which agitate the Indian community most.”

Gokhale in his campaign against the Act pointed out the irony of the fact that while India was governed, of all the colonies, in the most strong handed manner and where, compared to other countries, press is weak, the Government tried to further restrict a weak press in their functioning. To him the press, like the Government, was a custodian of public interest. Any attempt to put obstacles in its free work will detrimentally affect the interest of the people. He was also drawing a parallel with the liberty of the press enjoyed in England. There he stated, even if the disclosures were of the most embarrassing nature to the Government such attempts would be looked upon as “journalistic enterprise”.

The British also passed the Act of 1910 “to provide for the better control of the press” saying that “the continued recurrence of murders and outrages has shown that the measures which have hitherto been to deal with anarchy and sedition require strengthening and that the root source of the evil has not been touched. Prosecutions have invariably proved successful, but have produced no permanent improvement in the tone of the press”. The most objectionable clause in the Act was that the executive could take recourse to punitive action at its own will.

Again the champion of the press was Gokhale who declared that the Indian press had been “a potent instrument of progress: it had quickened national conscience; it had spread in the country idea of justice and equality not only between man and man but also between class and class: it has stimulated public spirit, it has set higher standards of public duty.”

To uphold “the Liberty of the Press and protest against the Press Act of 1910” a largely attended meeting of the citizens of Bombay, under the chairmanship of B. G. Horniman, editor of the Bombay Chronicle, was convened on 24 June 1916.

Gandhi was invited to speak. He had come down from South Africa. He spoke in his native Gujarati against the Press Act and read the text of the resolution which ran as follows: “That this meeting of loyal and law-abiding Indian subjects of His Majesty the King-Emperor, believing the existence of a free public Press to be one of the first essentials of a healthy and progressive State and necessary to the proper development, political and moral, of civilised peoples; and further that the extension and maintenance of freedom in all departments of public life is the surest guarantee of popular progress and contentment and of mutual trust between the Government and the people, asks that the Press in the country should enjoy the utmost liberty of expression, subject to the legal restraints of the ordinary law and of penalties inflicted only after proper trial and conviction.”

He spoke of the “attack made by the Government against Mrs Annie Besant,” editor of New India, and said: “It is simply a waste of time to hold these meetings and carry these resolutions. But what else can we do? There is no alternative for us – the subject people – to do but place on record our view on the given subject. And, therefore, I have come here in response to an invitation. I feel that something should be done in this matter – something done so that our complaint may reach the ears of the Government”. He agreed that some restraint is necessarily to be exercised on newspapers. But he was against “unwarranted restraint”.

Gandhi had, till then, faith in British justice and appealed to the Government “to do everything that is just and righteous; if that is done, there would be no necessity for these meetings”. As one who had edited a newspaper in South Africa, he mad a special request to the Government “on behalf of the newspaper writers”. “Do not harass the respectable editors and proprietors…Treat us as generously as you would the English people.”

To the Indian newspapers his advice was “Say openly whatever you have to say. That is our duty,” and concluded by saying that the best the Government could take the bodies of the Editor. But souls will remain free.

Editor's note: To be continued

Fiji's first coup leader admits he was wrong to depose Bavadra

Fji Vlillage has this week scored one of the best stories to come out of Fiji this week - Sitiveni Rabuka's apology to the family of Timoci Bavadra.

Fji Village says Rabuka visited the Bavadra family and Tui Vuda Ratu Josefa Iloilo in the vllage of Viseisei to admit he'd wronged them during the 1987 coup.

Rabuka deposed the late Doctor Bavadra and his government on May 14, 1987, in what was Fiji's first coup.

He told Fiji Village he decided to own up to his mistake after he got a taste of injustice himself, when soldiers came and took his government 4-wheel drive vehicle and his Prime Minister's pension was scrapped earlier this year.

Rabuka went on to say he has already approached senior officers whom he ousted in 1987 as well as the current President and the Army Commander in 1987, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who he had also removed from office.

RFMF Chief Of Staff, Jim Sanday, is another he has has confessed to, adding an apology was made to the Indians toward the end of his time as Prime Minister, with the Queen getting her apology back in 1997.

Rabuka now plans to approach Ratu Epeli Ganilau and the military but says he's not seeking fogiveness, just admiting he made a mistake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deported publisher: China key to successfully isolating Fiji's illegal government

By RUSSELL HUNTER, former publisher and chief executive of the Fiji Sun

If ever there was a time for Australia, New Zealand, their Pacific Islands Forum colleagues and the international community to instigate stronger action against the illegal regime in Fiji, that time is now.

If the sanctions – which prevent those with connections to the military or the self-appointed government from entering a range of countries – were not effective we’d hear much less bleating about them from the dictatorship.

The time to act is now. With its latest “decrees” the junta has now abandoned all pretence to governance and is revealed for what it is – a gang of opportunists out to cling indefinitely to the trappings of power.

The Media Decree announced last week could have come straight from George Orwell’s classic satirical novel Animal Farm in which all animals are equal – but some are more equal than others.

It establishes a “Media Development Authority” which will seriously stunt the media’s development. In fact it will hand over control of the nation’s media to the illegal regime. This will be done through the now familiar bully-boy tactics so beloved of the Bainimarama military. Journalists and editors who don’t toe the junta’s line can be fined, jailed or both. The sole authority with power to do this will be directly and fully controlled by the junta.

At the same time the draconian decree aims to expropriate the assets of the country’s largest news organisation, The Fiji Times. Its sins? It has reported “negatively”, it has declined to accord Bainimarama the title of prime minister (even though he was not and never will be elected) and it has not acted in the best interest of Fiji (read in the best interest of the junta).

So its sole owner, the Murdoch-controlled News Ltd, will have to relinquish 90 per cent of its shares – no doubt to an entity more to the junta’s liking.

Ironically, the nation’s other daily which in recent times has offered nothing less than grovelling support to the junta is caught by the same decree.

Never mind the message this sends to the investment community at a time when inward investment in Fiji is next to zero, the junta’s survival comes first. Absurd as it may seem from a distance, the regime seriously believes that if it can just persuade- or now force – the media to say that all is well, then it will be.

Then comes the Immunity Decree which quite literally allows members of the army to get away with murder.

This has its origins in the 2000 coup for which George Speight is still serving a life sentence and the violent mutiny of November of the same year at the army barracks in Nasinu outside Suva. Members of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit, a supposedly highly trained special operations team, mutinied killing three of their fellow (non-CRW) troops and attempting to kill their commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama for reasons that remain unclear but are probably an amalgam of support for the Speight coup and resentment that a navy man had command of the army.

The mutiny failed and those responsible paid a heavy penalty. Two CRW members were killed during the shoot-out at the barracks and three more were arrested and quite literally kicked to death by loyalist soldiers. At least one of their victims had no connection with the mutiny and was picked up from a lecture at the Fiji Institute of Technology. He was not seen alive again – at least not by his family and friends.

The police began a murder investigation following the deaths but co-operation from the military was less than exemplary. In fact it was non-existent. Any suspects were quickly sent on overseas missions, including peace keeping duties while police had extreme difficulty in gaining access to the barracks to pursue their inquiries.

Now the immunity decree absolves the army and especially its commander of all and any acts that might otherwise be considered crimes. It is backdated to 2000 for obvious reasons.

How can any law-abiding, democratic nation look other than askance on such a regime, one that puts its own interest ahead of those of the people it purports to represent?

The Pacific island nations need to take heed of Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sai’lele Maleilegaoi’s words that the decrees are the “just the latest in a long string of events to gain absolute, unchallenged and unfettered power.” 

Similarly, China needs to re-examine its policy towards the illegal regime in Fiji. Its decision to prop up a ramshackle military junta in the face of overwhelming domestic and foreign opposition will do it ultimate harm and simply prolong the agony of Fiji’s suffering people.

Make no mistake, the regime’s litany of motherhood statements concerning fairness, equality, transparency and accountability must be read in the context of the two decrees cited above. In other words, it’s all a sham.

For if, as the regime would have us believe, it is popular at home why the need for all the bodyguards? Why the need to suppress the truth? And, above all, why not have an election right now and show the world that Fiji backs the junta?

The answer is that there is seething and growing resentment against the regime at home. People fear to speak out, knowing what happens to critics and but for a few self-interested exceptions mainly in the business community, the junta is detested and it knows it.

All attempts by the outside world to re-engage with Fiji have been regarded in the Queen Elizabeth Barracks (the real centre of power in Fiji) as signs of weakness to be exploited – hence the unacceptable and quite astonishing offer of the leading coup mouthpiece as head of mission to Wellington.

It’s time. The best thing the region and the world at large – including and perhaps especially China – can do for the people of Fiji is to further isolate the illegal regime while promoting an urgent return to democratic rule.

The genuine people of Fiji will thank them for it.

Picture: Junta leader Bainimarama with Cai Jinbiao, the ambassador of China in 2008, when the republic gfted $200,000 to Fiji after Cyclone Gene.

Junta believed to be discussing media decree today

The junta's interim cabinet is supposed to be going through the media decree today.

Coupfourpointfive understands the regime is wading through the feedback but it'll be at least a fortnight before it signs it off.

It was originally suggested stakeholders get three months to make submissions and have their say.

But the illegal goverment will probably try to bundle the controversial document through, as quickly as possibe because of its contentious nature and the growing calls for it to be dropped.

Regional governments, media stakeholders and interest groups have all criticised the proposed decree as draconian and punitive but the regime shows no sign of backing off.

Few people doubt the decree will become law but many have been hopeful there'll be some compromise by the illegal government. 

Just two out of three public consultations were held in the end with the third cancelled.

Still, there's been no shortage of coverage. Dozens of stories have been written about the decree and they keep coming, such is the concern.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fiji TV demotes two senior journalists on regime's order over claims of bias

As Fiji's illegal government hastens to introduce its media decree, more journalists are suffering under its rule.

Two senior journalists at Fiji TV have been moved to lesser roles under claims they were biased against the Frank Bainimarama government.

It's believed Merana Kitione and Anish Chand were sidelined because of their links to the National Federation Party. Kitione, Fiji TV's Manager News Current Affairs and Sport, is married to former Fiji Times journalist and administrative officer for the National Federation Party, Kamal Iyer.

She is now acting training and development manager.

Another senior journalist, and close colleague, has been moved with her - desk editor and team leader news, Anish Chand, who is now in production. Chand has friends in the National Federation Party.

Kitione's old job has been filled by Tukaha Mua, who used to manage the programmes and distribution section, while Chand's position has been filled by Emily Mohi.

The Permanent Secretary for Information and Fiji Television Limited board member, Colonel Neumi Leweni, told Fiji Communications Limited the Fiji TV management was asked to remove Kitione and Chand from the newsroom.

Leweni was appointed to the board of directors on December 4 in 2009 and sources say the order to demote the two journalists came from high up in the illegal regime.

The junta revealed its controversial media decree last week, saying it's aimed at bringing about fairer reporting and greater responsibility and accountability from media organisations.

But the decree has been widely condemned by international media groups and regional governments, especially the provisions which will force media organisations to be 90 per cent owned by a local. Such a policy will effectively disestablish outfits like the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fiji Times, a regular and strong critic of the illegal government.

Under the media decree, media organisations can also be fined as much as five hundred thousand Fiji dollars and journalists imprisoned for up to five years.

In the past year, several journalists have been taken into custody and detained by the regime.

Editor's Note: Thursday April 15 6am
The Permanent Secretary for Information and Fiji Television board member, Lt Colonel Neumi Leweni, told Fiji Village yesterday the moving of Kitione and Chand was "an internal matter that had been dealt with by the management of Fiji One and the matter rests there.”
But Fiji TV’s lawyer, Tanya Waqanika, told a different story saying Kitione and Chand weren't the only staff that had been moved.
The changes she detailed, though, sounded unconvincing - the changes she revealed to Radio New Zealand sounded very much like Kitione and Chand's replacements.
Ms Waqanika was adamant Kitione was needed for training at its Suva office and other subsidiaries, saying she was one of Fiji TV's chief credited trainers.

'Democracy will not come to Fij until poverty is eliminated'

A speaker on democracy at the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies conference “Oceanic Transformations” over the weekend, said democracy was failing to work in Fiji because citizens were uninformed.

Mosmi Bhim, a Communications and Advocacy Officer at the Citizens’ Constitutional Focrun, said democracy in Fiji, had been top down, with its values and merits understood and advocated by the middle class and the rich but largely ignored by the grassroots whose preoccupation was primarily making ends meet.

Results in past elections in Fiji showed votes were cast in response to emotional appeals by politicians as opposed to criteria of better infrastructure and services and accountability of government.

Bhim said Fiji’s democracy was "disabled due to uninformed citizenry".

She put the lack of widespread protest against coups in the “context of the need for basic services at the grassroots level and its contribution to the mal-functioning of democratic processes in Fiji through a citizenry that is inadequately informed by media or research”.

Bhim added that the lack of good leaders had contributed to this problem, as had the discomfort ordinary citizens had with demanding accountability and transparency from their leaders. She said democracy would not come to Fiji if poverty was not resolved.

The suggestion was made that the links between governance and development as a way of breaking the pattern of coups in Fiji, had to be looked at more closely.

The other speak on democracy in the Pacific, was Alisi Taumoepeau, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in Tonga, who said the people have been promised elections in November this year but no preparations, for example amendments to the electoral law, have been made for the occassion.

Like Fiji, Tonga is still under public emergency regulations, as a result of the Tongan riots in 2007.

Taumoepeau said that “during the uncertainties of this transition period in Tonga, it is important to those who lead and those being led, that the rule of law exists regardless of political structure, content of law or human rights assertion”.

The rule of law, Taumoepeau said, requires that government is accountable and transparent, ensures the independence of judiciary and implements due diligence and good governance, all very essential for a successful constitutional reform.-Source Pacific Media Watch article by Dr Evangelina Papoutsaki.

Pressure grows for media decree to be dropped

Criticism of the illegal government's proposed media decree is growing, with Amnesty International and the New Zealand Labour Party the latest to denounce the plan as draconian.

"The Fijian government is giving itself a license to imprison or bankrupt its critics," says Amnesty International's Pacific Researcher, Apolosi Bose. "The decree will further restrain the media from reporting government and military abuses, for fear of reprisals through a kangaroo court."

"Fijian journalists have already been intimidated, threatened and assaulted by the military since media censorship was authorised in April 2009. Now they could face up to five years in jail or fines big enough shut down a media outlet, through a complaints system controlled by government and not bound by formal rules of evidence."

Amnesty International believes the decree's vaguely worded provisions will be interpreted with a view to punishing peaceful critics of the government.

"Going by past experience, the decree's generic references to national interest and public order simply mean that the media will not be allowed to criticise Fiji's leaders, members of the security forces, or their supporters and associates," says Bose.

The New Zealand Labour Party has also spoken out against the tough new media policies, with its Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Chris Carter, calling on the junta to abandon the plan.

In a statement Carter says: “The New Zealand Labour Party wants to see Fijian democracy restored as soon as possible. A free press is fundamental to any healthy functioning democracy. This draft proposal will see the end of any real press freedom in our Pacific neighbour.

"The Media Industry Development Decree will take editorial decisions away from journalists and place them in the hands of the military regime. It will also see foreign-owned media confiscated; a move clearly aimed at muzzling the Fiji Times, which has been critical of the present regime.

"The decree has been condemned around the world as a backwards step that will hurt the Fijian people and further rob them of their human rights. This is a view shared by Labour.

"Since assuming power in a coup in 2006, Fiji’s military rulers have continually demonstrated contempt for democracy by ratcheting up their control over the Fijian people. We’ve seen democratic elections ruled out until at least 2014, we’ve seen respected leaders of the Methodist Church threatened and arrested, and now we’re seeing unprecedented control forced upon local news media.

"This attack on press freedom will only hurt ordinary Fijians and further isolate the Bainimarama regime from the Pacific and the rest of the world."-Sources Pacific Media Watch and Pacific Scoop

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gandhi and lessons for Fiji

Part One
Mahatma Gandhi and Liberty of the Press: Lesson for Fiji


In 1889, the British led Government of India published an Amendment in the Indian Official Secrets Act of 1889, coinciding with Mahatma Gandhi’s own newspaper The Indian Opinion in South Africa. Though his contemporaries in India were facing various repressive measures under Press Acts, Gandhi was not, during his entire stay in South Africa, handicapped in running his paper.

 The great Russian pacifist, Leo Tolstoy’s letter to Gandhi – Letter to a Hindoo – was published in the Indian Opinion. It was reproduced in the journal Gujarat Patra of Nadiad, a town on Gujarat. A notice under the Indian Penal Code was served on the journal by the repressive Government of India. In the Gujarati edition of the Indian Opinion of  9 April 1910, Gandhi mentioned about this and said: “It is not a little surprising, though it does not contain a single sentence which can promote violence, the person who reproduced it is being prosecuted (echoes of Contempt of Court proceedings and fine and suspended prison sentence by Justice Hickie against Fiji Times and Netani Rika).

"This betrays sheer madness on the part of the officers…Our only regret is that though ours is the primary responsibility for publishing this letter, nothing is done to us and it its editor of Gujarat who is in danger. We hope that the editor and the manager of Gujarat will do their duty fearlessly and not retract a single step.”

Gandhi also mentioned about the “Repressive Laws” in India for “Suppression of Writings” and cautioned: “Indiscriminate suppression of newspapers by the Government will not ensure peace…True, the letter gave a vivid account of the harm done by the British Rule. That thought cannot be erased by suppressing writings.” Gandhi was not quite sure what to do under the circumstances. He said: “Will our readers be intimidated by these developments or will they do their duty? That is what remains to be seen.”

 In the Gujarati edition of the Indian Opinion of 23 April 1919, Gandhi wrote an article under the caption ‘Journalist’s Duty’. He referred to the case against Gujarat Patra and asked: “What should an editor do when something he has published displeases the Government or is held to violate some law but is none the less true? Should be apologise? We should say, certainly not. True, he is not bound to publish such matter, but once it has been published, the editor ought to accept responsibility for it.”

 But Gandhi qualified his statement and said: “This raises a very important issue. If the principle we have laid down is correct, it follows that if any provocative writing has been published unintentionally and no apology is offered for the same, the newspaper will in consequence be prevented from rendering other services as well and the community will go without that benefit. We would not therefore, apply this principle to matter published unintentionally, but it should apply to what is published after full deliberation.

"If a newspaper runs into difficulties for publishing any such matter, we think the closing down of the newspaper will be a better service to the public. The argument that in that case one may have to face the confiscation of all one’s property and be reduced to poverty has no force. Such a contingency may certainly arise, and it was precisely for this reason that we said that the editor of a journal devoted to public service must be ever ready for death.”

 He gave one obvious illustration: “Suppose that Government has committed a gross injustice and robbed the poor. A progressive newspaper is being published in such a place. It writes against the oppressive measure and advises people to disregard the unjust law of the Government. The Government takes offence and threatens confiscation of property if no apology is forthcoming. Should the reformer apologise?

"We think the reply is again the same; that he should stand the confiscation of his property and close down the newspaper but certainly not offer an apology. The people would then see that, if the reformer could lose his all for their sake, they should also in their own interest oppose the law…The best service that the reformer can render will be to stop the newspaper.”

Editor's Note: To be continued

From island boy to island boy

He is by no means perfect having caught the flak of 15,000 Samoans who turned out for what was probably the country's largest protest demonstration last year, when he decided to do the unthinkable - change driving from the right hand to the left hand side.

Yet, Sailele Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, the prime minister of Samoa, generally has a reputation for fair government, though critics of the Human Rights Political Party would rush to challenge this.

Tuilaepa's weekend comments about Fiji's illegal government and self-appointed leader, Voreqe Bainimarama, was all the more credible because it came from someone who has mana in the Pacific, someone who, unlike the spokespeople of New Zealand and Australia, has been unafraid to mince his words.

The 64 year old Samoan leader called it as he saw it: Bainimarama is a dictator who has turned Fiji upside down, using hastily concocted legislation to keep himself in power; a despot who keeps putting the screws on the people of Fiji.

Sure, the New Zealand prime minister and his Foreign Affairs Minister, John Key and Murray McCully, have fired at Bainimarama; so too have their Australian peers, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith.

But none have had the firepower of Tuilaepa, the veteran politician and economist who has the audacity to make fun of  Bainimarama. His comments throughout this recent interview on the Fiji military hardman were interspersed with laughter, something only someone from the taro or cassava patch would get away with. Quote: "I wouldn’t be surprised if his next decree is to change the Fiji national anthem. Instead of God Bless Fiji, it will be God Bless Bani. For Bani instead of For Fiji, the all-knowing, the all-enlightening God-sent Bani. All hail Bani!"

Even Tuilapea's insistence he's not criticising Bainimarama had a sting: “It’s not really criticism - its advice. It’s like watching somebody trying to jump over a cliff. So I’m actually consoling my friend Bani. Trying to help him, pointing him out the error of his ways.”

The dialogue New Zealand and Australia (and aid donors) seem determined to maintain with Fiji, needs more of Tuilaepa's bluntness. This archery enthusiast (he won a silver medal in the 2007 South Pacific Games) has quite nicely demystified Bainimarama, cutting the junta leader down to size as just another island boy who needs a good hiding.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Immunity Decree revealed

Coupfourpointifive has obtained and is tonight publishing the controversial decree that grants the illegal government of Fiji FULL IMMUNITY for their crimes.

The Limitation of Liability for Prescribed Political Events Decree 2010 was signed quietly by the president Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on March the 29th.

The decree gives immunity to:

  • The former president ofFiji Ratu Josefa Iloilo
  • Military commade Voreqe Bainimarama
  • Jona Senilagakali, the caretaker prime minister
  • All oficers and members of the armed forces, except those who've been found guilty of a crime
  • All officers and members of the police force, except those who've been found guilty of a crime
  • All officers and members of the Fiji prison services, except those who've been found guilty of a crime
  • Plus all other persons who acted under the direction, orders, instructions and commands of any of the above persons.
Coupfourpointfive says this is yet another example of the corrupt and illegal actions of this self-appointed government of Frank Bainimarama.

Read for yourselves the decree to form your opinion.

Samoa's PM: decrees the vice of dictators

The prime minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has described the decision by Fiji's junta to impose a media decree on local media as "astoundingly predictable."

In an interview with Tupuola Terry Tavita, the editor of the Samoan government newspaper (Savali) that appears on Pacific Scoop, Tuilapea says the recent actions of the illegal government "comes straight out of the I-want-to-be-a-dictator rulebook."

"First you silence your critics, you then appoint your yes-men to positions of power then you issue outlandish decrees to, well, save your skin.”

It's being reported self-appointed prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, has given him and his government immunity under another decree.

Tuilaepa says in the Tavita interview, that decision and the media decree speaks volumes. “The two decrees sum add up to political, legal and criticism immunity. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his next decree is to change the Fiji national anthem. Instead of God Bless Fiji ..... it will be God Bless Bani….. For Bani instead of For Fiji… the all-knowing, the all-enlightening God-sent Bani ….. all hail Bani!”

Tuilaepa says the rule of thumb is not new. “We’ve seen it with the abrogation of the constitution, the disbanding of Parliament, the takeover of Police, the sacking of the judiciary, the dismissing of the council of chiefs and even the bullying and sidelining of the Methodist Church. Now with the silencing of critics and the declaration of legal immunity, it’s all very predictable. The regime is digging in for the long haul.

“He (Bainimarama) has entrenched the public service with the military, appointing his army top brass to heads of government ministries and corporations. I wouldn’t be surprised if come 2014 he declares there’s no need for elections as his CEO colonels have become ‘experienced’.”

Tuilaepa says decrees are the vice of dictators. “The laws of the land should come from acts of Parliament. But too bad Bani has scrapped Fiji’s representative Parliament. Only the Mugabes, the Hitlers and the Mussolinis of this world issue decrees. If anything, the decrees are an admission of guilt. They can’t face the consequences of what they’ve done to their country. Can’t face the music. Can’t justify their sins and misdeeds. So they cloak themselves in immunity decrees.”

Tuilaepa has criticised the illegal regime several times before, but told the interviewer: “It’s not really criticism… its advice. It’s like watching somebody trying to jump over a cliff. So I’m actually consoling my friend Bani. Trying to help him, pointing him out the error of his ways.”

Tuilaepa says he he has had a lot of Fijian friends and he is concerned with the Fijian people’s welfare. “Fijians are happy people. Happy-go-lucky people like us Samoans. But then, as the children’s verse goes, along comes Bani the spider and bites it in the…[laughs]. They’re not happy people anymore. Caught in the spider’s fly trap… er, I mean web.”

And he says Fiji could easily hold free and fair elections next month if Commodore Bainimarama wanted it to. "It’s the only way he can respectably bow out of the predicament he’s got himself into … give the country back to the people. Besides elections are fun, very liberating."

He adds: “Democratic politics is a lot of fun. Where you can engage in political wit with your political opponents in the morning and still enjoy a round of golf with them after work. At the same time, the people exercise their right to vote, their right to support and of course, their right to dissent. In fact, if it wasn’t for elections and democracy, I’d be really bored.”

Tuilaepa says good governments need good oppositions to tell them what to. "And good governments do what good oppositions tell them what to do – so they can remain government and the opposition remains the opposition. Forever.”

Picture: From top to bottom Samoa's prime minister Sailele Tuilaepa Malielegaoi and Mussolini, Hitler and Mugabe