#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Air of optimism, but media censorship continues

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Air of optimism, but media censorship continues

By Professor Wadan Narsey

There is an air of optimism in Fiji as potential voters aged 18 and over begin to register, but the media censorship continues unabated, undermining basic human rights, hurting the economy and the Regime itself.

Even though there are no Regime censors in newsrooms, media censorship has now taken the far more invidious form of "self-censorship", driven by continuing public intimidation of journalists and media owners.

The media is not only dropping stories which the Regime may object to, but for more than a year it has also been refusing to take articles from anyone who they assess may be out of favour with the Regime, such as Yours Truly.

Television and radio media have been effectively banned from running interviews with such persons, depriving the public of independent professional opinions and commentaries, which can enlighten them on critical economic issues of public interest.

This continuing media censorship will undermine the Yash Ghai Commission whose work has the potential to return Fiji to normalcy and solid economic growth.

It does not help investor confidence or our environment, both areas where there is an urgent need for senior civil servants (whether military personnel or normal civil servants) to offer professionally independent advice to the Regime decision makers.

It is not helping the Regime's own track record as "custodians" of the economy and the land, while undermining a future Regime attempt to become a viable alternative political force to existing political parties.

The Regime urgently needs honest and independent media advice.

The intimidation
In recent weeks, some Regime spokespersons (who vary from month to month, and continually undermine the civil servants at the Ministry of Information) have castigated the media for reporting speeches by political leaders.

The country's oldest TV station, Fiji TV, was held in limbo for months about the renewal of its license right up to the end of its 12 year license, despite the fact that there is no evidence that this station was in any way biased in its reporting, nor any inquiry or complaint from the Fiji Media Authority.

Fiji TV's license has been renewed for only six months, yet another totally unnecessary intimidating measure, as there is no reason why any subsequent changes in laws cannot be applied to any normal longer term license, which would give the media owners the confidence they need to plan for the future.

In contrast, the totally pro-Regime television station owned and heavily subsidized by tax-payers, and controlled by the brother of the Regime's Attorney General, has no such constraints at all.

The Regime has also passed an extraordinary Decree which allows the Minister of Information to refuse a television license, while strangely imposing the burden on the media outlets to prove why their license should be issued (instead of the other way round- "you are innocent unless proven guilty"), AND stipulating that the Minister's decision may not be taken to court, or challenged in any forum whatsoever.

Invidious self-censorship
The Regime may technically claim that they don't instruct the media on anything. But the reality on the ground is otherwise.

The senior employees of one newspaper will not respond to my emails seeking clarification on why even my purely educational articles are not being published, even if they have no bearing on this Regime's performance.

That hurts if you are a Fiji citizen, who has been writing developmental articles for the media for the last twenty eight years, and has no political alliances or ambitions whatsoever.

But I can understand there are hundreds of livelihoods of their workers at stake, and the owner of newspaper is facing a bench warrant for not appearing in court on a due date.

This newspapers' senior journalists heroically face a daily struggle to report accurately and fairly on what goes on in Fiji.

Another newspaper which has allowed full page attacks on Fiji citizens (including me) by pro-Regime foreigners, will not allow any "right of reply" articles, a principle practised by fair media globally.

The editor of this paper had initially agreed to run a short piece, but upon reading it, changed his mind, without any explanation. This article may be read here.

[This paper did print a "Letter to the Editor" which responded to only the marginal issues raised by the foreigner's article in this paper].

The tragedy in Fiji is that the self-censorship has extended even to academia. At a USP conference last year, a former Head of the USP School of Journalism (a friend of mine) gave a presentation on the challenges facing journalism in Fiji and the Pacific. While acceptably and comprehensively discussing the role of journalism as an instrument to foster development, he made no mention whatsoever of the draconian media censorship in Fiji at that time (continuing till today), abjectly ignoring the elephant in the room.

Abdication by the Fiji Media Authority
It is regrettable that the Fiji Media Authority (chaired by a dormant Professor Subramani) has yet to make any statement at all on the alleged infringements by any media outlet of the media laws of Fiji, or on the need for a healthy robust media, or on the need to strengthen Fiji citizens' basic human right of freedom of expression.

Has the Fiji Media Authority (Professor Subramani?) run any workshops for the media owners, for senior and junior journalists, outlining clearly what are legitimate approaches and content of their reporting, and what are not?

Or are journalists simply left to make their own fearful judgements, with senior media editors then facing the invidious task of deciding what will and will not go into print or on air- effectively doing the Regime's dirty work.

This is a totally unacceptable situation which is destroying the social responsibility functions of the media, from within.

Negative impact on investor confidence
One can see two policy areas where the Regime's inability to get independent media advice or popular feed-back through the media, is harming the Regime itself: laws affecting investor confidence, and government policies that affect the environment.

A few large building complexes going up in Suva are welcome signs of economic recovery, but they are not going to raise the incomes throughout Fiji, and will certainly not raise private investment up to around 25% of GDP which is desperately required for healthy economic growth.

It is therefore puzzling to me why the money-making legal advisers to the Regime are not telling them bluntly that every Decree that stops corporations and residents from taking their perceived grievances to court is undermining investor confidence and reducing potential investment and economic growth.

The latest decree stopping media companies from taking any ministerial decision to court is yet another legal mill-stone around the Fiji economy, adding to similar millstones in the form of decrees on the Momi Bay and Natadola investments, the FNPF pension changes, and the arbitrary ending of Airports concessions.

Such decrees damningly tell investors that they cannot expect to have the protection of the Fiji judiciary, who the Regime clearly does not trust to fairly apply the laws of Fiji, by preventing by hearing any perceived grievances by any media outlet (whose very existence and investment is at stake), or by its employees (whose very livelihoods may be jeopardized by the Minister's decision). It is odd indeed that the intellectually sharp head of the judiciary has made no public statements about this.

Every such decree builds up the mountain of distrust that the ordinary business community currently feels towards this Regime, stopping generalized investment.

Damaging the environment
A second area where the Regime's reputation is being harmed is that of the environment. Coming back to Fiji after a year, it is dismaying to see the large areas of mangroves which are being filled up around Suva (and no doubt elsewhere as well).

There is a large area between Fletcher Road and Grantham Road where the tiri has been cleared and large scale land-fill is going on.

There is another large area between the Parliamentary Complex, Sukuna Road, Queen Elizabeth Drive and Nasese. This land fill may worsen even more the flooding that has already been increasingly occurring in Nasese for the last five years, because of illegal land-fills by residents adjoining the mangroves (I declare my interest: I am a Nasese resident).

Both land-fills are destroying the precious mangrove environment on which the surrounding marine resources and subsistence fisher folk depend through the biological chains. There are no doubt others.

Did the Department of Environment give its approval for these mangrove landfills to take place or were they over-ruled?

Have the media been able to raise any concerns on this and other major environmental issues by environmentalists and NGOs who are no doubt fully aware of the degradation that is taking place?

At my first seminar presentation at the James Cook University, I had made the mistake of acknowledging (as I thought was the practice) the "owners of the land". I was corrected by a friend: owners can do "what they like with their property"; but the Australian Aboriginals and Torres Straits Islanders see themselves as "custodians" of the land- merely looking after it for the future generations.

The Military Regime's eight year rule of Fiji will eventually be assessed by many criteria, but one will certainly be how good they were as "custodians of the land" and environment: whether they left it better or worse off, for the future generations.

The "million trees" initiative (oops, where has that gone?) will be a plus on their Report Card, but the mangroves will not, especially to all the young voters of Fiji, who are going to be far more environmentally conscious than the oldies.

Neither will be the total lack of growth in formal sector jobs for school leavers, the current bane of the economy.

A fearful Civil Service?
In the absence of a totally free media, there is a broader question: do senior civil servants feel free to question, on professional grounds, instructions coming from the top, as for instance, on the environmental issues?

The recent trend of placing military personnel in top civil service positions, while no doubt leading to a more obedient civil service, has an inherent disadvantage.

The duty of all professional military officers is to obey, without question or hesitation, any instruction coming from the top. Professional civil servants on the other hand are required to express alternative views if the situation warrants.

Some military officers may have made the transition to being good civil servants, while most probably have not. Numerous press releases and statements are no substitute for professional productivity and real output.

I suspect that with some civil servants being dismissed without recourse to any appeals mechanism, many civil servants are afraid of voicing any disagreement with any order that comes from the top.

It would be interesting to know whether the Chairman of the Public Services Commission or the Permanent Secretary in the Public Service has ever raised the importance of professional independence with his senior civil servants, especially the former military officers.

If the civil service itself cannot raise issues of public concern, it is even more important that the media is freely allowed to do so - even if it appears that they are continuously critical about the government of the day- but that is one of their jobs in all transparent societies, and should never be narrowly interpreted as being "anti-development" in some way.

As the Rabuka Regime did after the 1987 military coup, the Bainimarama Regime also needs to think seriously about how to make the transition from being a dictatorship to a government accountable to the public and comfortable with public scrutiny, especially by journalists.

Regime hurting itself
One of the inevitable consequences of this widespread media censorship is that the Regime leaders cannot know the true state of popular feelings towards it and its policies.

Positive and flattering responses will abound, especially from the myriads of sycophants and money-making carpet baggers who are attracted by all dictatorships, while all negative responses will be filtered out by the "minders", effectively telling the leaders what they want to hear.

When the winds of change eventually come (as they inevitably do), it can be like a bolt out of the blue, as Egypt's Mubarak and Fiji's Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Sitiveni Rabuka will ruefully testify, even though the latter two operated under fairly free media.

In Australia, political leaders like Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott may dislike unfavourable opinion polls, or Letters to the Editor or radio and TV talk-back shows, but you can be sure that they analyse them thoroughly, for their own political survival.

Whether the fundamental objective of the Military Regime is social popularity or success of their yet-to-be-formed political party, they need to know what the honest opinions of the voters are.

Media censorship totally blocks the easiest and most accurate channel to obtain this understanding. It is in the Regime's own interest to let the media be free.

The Regime (helped by Professor Subramani) might want to revisit the words of Voltaire (probably paraphrased by Evelyn Beatrice Hall): "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

See Professor Narsey's blogsite for other stories on where Fiji is at today.


Anonymous said...

OK well whoever wrote this sounds like a freakin cry baby... anyone can see the mangroves needs to go..where else are they going to expand Suva to... Many other mangroves in the country...

Anonymous said...

so subarmani nf man and khaiyum former nfp mp son.
so we see nfp sleeping with the regime.
How can we trust people now.
We had attar singh want 1997 constitution but parmod rae ready to support regime if he can get nfp some reserve seat .
what a joke why cant regime and nfp fight election and let the voters decide.
khaiyum /bai will pay for all this deeds one day here on earth or in hell.

Mehazabeen .c.Kumar said...

The Great Wadan Naesey keep it up.

Anonymous said...

god wont fight your battle but you have to fight for your family/country/faith/god.
god will give you power to fight your enemy.
fight for god and country.
kaiyum is an anti christ like frank.

Anonymous said...

Bill Gavoka what you have to say now .
sdl or regime now.

Anonymous said...

PS PSC needs to be investigated by Khaiyum.

Anonymous said...

So tappooooo's missed out on Fiji dairy. Apparently Cunty Tappoo was tipped by his mate ASK to withdraw as this company has too many issues. It has been milked dry by the regime.

Radiolucas said...

Eloquent and concise.

Keep it up Wadan, we need more of your insightful and helpful commentary.

kite flyer said...

nobody - yes, nobody - who is a part of the regime would stand up for Voltaire's dictum on free speech. It is naive to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Welcome Home Prof Narsey, as usual well said. the pity is the regime has no capacity for self examination and never ever entertain a different point of view. But as you said when that bolt from the blue comes, they will be genuinely surprised. History repeating itself can be tiresome when played out on a third rate stage by imbeciles and carpet baggers.

mark manning said...

The fact is, there is no Freedom of Speech in Fiji, the Regime controls the Media, to the detriment of the Citizens of Fiji.
I personally was attacked in the Fiji Sun and on Graham Davis' grubsheet site, and though the Fiji Sun is not obliged to print my replies, Graham Davis has seen fit to remove them altogether from his grubsheet site.
So it's very clear to me at least, that they selectively print replies which are not challenging to the regime, but favourable.
Graham Davis however, continues to exaggerate, print untruths and manipulate in favour of Frank Bainimarama and his sidekick, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Anonymous said...

Pretty rich Wadan Narsey attacking Graham Davies as a "foreigner". Then what are you, Wadan? You are both Fiji born, you are both Fiji citizens but Davis is a foreigner? Never thought I'd see the day when an Indo-Fijian called a Kai Valagi a foreigner in Fiji. This makes you as big racist as any i'taukei. What's your slogan Wadan? Fiji for some Fijians but not for kai valagi? Hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

Hey Wadan, where are you a 'Professor' at now? Your analysis is mostly sound, but please stop big-noting yourself as 'totally neutral.' More people will listen to you if stop being narky and censorious. There is always more than one way at looking at things.

Anonymous said...

I think Rajesh is on to something

Anonymous said...

dont worry about me and mara /others.
why dont you go and fight for democracy.
we doing it with our name not like you hide like a qori seems like your are frank/khaiyum ass licker.
people like you are lose and lamusona.
people voted me with highest votes .
who the f are you talking
why didnt you stand in the election.

Just saying said...

Good point Wadan no apparent complaint was made to the Media Authority. The only one taking offence at Fiji TV interviwing Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry was Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Anonymous said...

I like to clear the air again in this forum.
I Rajesh Singh wont stand in the 2014 Election in Fiji.
I have no more interest to stand in the election under the regime new illegal constitution.
I uphold the 1997 constitution dear to my heart.
I hope the matter rest here now.
I will support my party and friends if needed.
god bless fiji.

Anonymous said...

Mark Manning, it is a complete fabrication to say that I have deleted anything of yours from Grubsheet. The only person whose contributions have been deleted is someone who continually made racist remarks and threatened violence. Why you would make this up is beyond me, as is the claim by Wadan Narsey that I am a "foreigner". As foreign as he is.

Graham Davis

Paula said...

....'This continuing media censorship will undermine the Yash Ghai Commission whose work has the potential to return Fiji to normalcy and solid economic growth....'

While I agree with most of Narsey's analysis, I believe that the above statement clearly misleads readers. The Ghai commission does not have the potential to end dictatorship, human rights violations and economic downturn in Fiji. The commission has been stacked with regime stooges and will not adress any issue that really matters such as accountability and role of the military. The commission's objective is to create a very thick smokescreen behind which Khaiyum and his thugs hope to hide for another two years. This is not about solving our problems, this is about buying time to rig the elections.

Ronin said...

Attention C4.5

I think you need to set up a Poll on your blog, just to see:

- Whether the people are with the regime or not.
-which party are the people supporting eg, SDL, Labour, Regime, SDL/Labour Coalition, etc

We can then see what our people have in mind.

Anonymous said...

Narsey, This 'foreigner' claim of yours is a silly red herring. Attack the ideas, not the man. Everyone is a foreigner in some sense. You are, too, with properties in Australia and children there with Aussie PR. The fact that you can put a couple of sentences together does not give you the license to pillory those with whom you disagree. So self-righteous, eh. That is why you are where you are, "Professor." At which university do you 'profess?'

Hypocrite Busted said...

Is Anonymous at 1.27pm Graham Davis at 3.23pm? Looks like it to me.

Anonymous said...

Hypocrite busted, I have my own blog and have been here several times before under my own name. I've just had a look at 1.27 and the very sensible person who said what he said doesn't even get my name right. It's Davis, not Davies. You might fancy yourself as Sherlock Holmes but don't give up your day job.

I repeat, as someone who was born in Suva and am a Fiji citizen, I don't regard myself as foreign. Wadan Narsey is throwing stones from a huge glass house. But now we know what his own agenda is and why he is anti-regime. He's s a racist. He thinks Fijians of European descent are foreigners but Fijians of Indo-Fijian descent aren't. That's hypocrisy.

Graham Davis

Anonymous said...

Thanks Professor..The Regime supporters will have different views from the Truth.well cant say much 'cos they have being deceived to beleive that the logics/rights are lies....they no longer have any conscience either...All they do is polish & polish & polish...or else they loose their perks..sadly some grudgingliy polish and cant utter a word of discontent....

kite flyer said...

the Yash Ghai Commission's work has the potential to return the country to normalcy Prof Narsey tells us with an air of optimism.
Can Prof. Narsey tell us whether the country needs a new constitution? He gives us a short yes-no answer or a long winded one.
I would prefer the short one. But he of course has the freedom of democratic choice to reply as he sees fit.

Coup 4.5 said...

We read in The Fiji Sun (4.7) that "More than 50 government vehicles have been impounded by the military for running after hours without authority".

It is a tragedy Rishi Ram is no longer there in the Fiji public service system to maintain discipline.

He would not have hesitated a moment to lay disciplinary charges, with the assistance of Sharvada Nand Sharma the PSC lawyer, on the more than 50 people who were driving government vehecle after hours without authority.

He could even arrive announced at 4.30 pm to present them with the charges.

I think Rishi Ram should be reinstated as permanent secretary or chairman of the PSC to instill discipline in the Fiji public service.

I mean Bainimarama can't be expected to everything, can he?
Rishi Ram will be a huge help to him.

He is a very disciplined lapdog of his political masters.
Yours sincerely,
Rajend Naidu

Director of Immigration said...

If Wadan is no longer "Professor" so is Crosbie Walsh and Yash Ghai - they are no longer at any University - "Emeritus" is a better label for all these men. As for Graham Davis, he gave up is Fiji citizenship long ago to enjoy all the perks and privileges of Aussie citizenship with his family and only bought his Fiji citizenship for $3385 through the illegal Citizenship Decree of 2009 - he may not be a "foreigner" but he is definitely a traitor to the country in which he was born, not to mention a traitor to freedom of the press

What Now? said...

What are we in for - anyone know?

New requirements for political parties
Publish date/time: 04/07/2012 [17:12]

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There will be new requirements for political parties as we move towards the 2014 elections.

Attorney General and Minister for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that the new requirements will be known in due course.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

The Electoral Registration of Voters Decree which is now in effect states that the Electoral Act is repealed however a political party registered under the repealed Act will continue as a registered party until such time further laws are made in relation to the registration of the parties.

The decree also states that any person who is serving a prison sentence of 12 months or more and any person declared to have a mental disorder under the laws of Fiji shall not have the right to be or shall cease to have the right to be registered as a voter unless the circumstances cease to exist.

Story by: Vijay Narayan and Filipe Naikaso

Anonymous said...

Why does Mr ASK make announcements about new announcements To be made soon about new requirements for political parties. Can he not just announce what all the requirements are? Oh I forgot, thats right, he doesn't know what the new requirements are!

Anonymous said...

Mr graham 'Sammy' Davis jr, you may want to give your mate mr ASK some lesson in proverbs.
Sayed-Khaiyum said the proof is in the eating of the pudding. This was quoted across few media outlets. What he needs to say is "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".

We know which said has all the idiots don't we Mr Graham 'Sammy' Davis Jr!

Yes we can said...

Take heart professor the word is getting out to the world.New York Times story this week shows this government up despite supporters saying otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Wadan the military regime is not normal therefore it is not interested in knowing what the voters or the people really think. It cannot afford to engage in such 'democratic past times' because it is too risky. And there you have the cost of being an unelected government you can never realy forget that you weren't elected in.

Anonymous said...


Why has Graham Davis chosen his blogname as Grubsheet

Grub - noun

a dirty or gross person.
Sheet - pronounced shit in Australian accent

Priscilla Queen of the Desert said...

Would believe Wadan Narsey ahead of anything the $3385 dollar Citizen Grub would ever say. Can Julia Gillard and co please reclaim their loose flotsam.

Fiji Fever said...

How can there be independent media advice if Qorvis people are running the Ministry of Information. I quote: antidisestablishmentarianism!

Anonymous said...

It is the catch 22 that put us where we are today. Media are too intimidated to stand up and so the regime continues to get way with the oppression and six years later it feels all too hard to take on.

Satini Koki Tikoitoga said...


Anonymous said...

I think we all know that Graham Davis often contributes to C4.5, sometimes under his own name, sometimes not. I don't agree with him very much, but I welcome his comments.

We've seen or heard how Davis used his blog to pillory Mark Manning. Manning says Davis has deleted his rebuttal. Davis denies it, claiming that the only person whose contributions he deleted is "someone who continually made racist remarks and threatened violence."

Hmmm, a case of "he said, she said."

On balance, Manning's claim sounds more credible to me. After all, Manning would not hesitate to rebut Davis' attacks. Why, then, is the rebuttal missing?

Davis mentions Sherlock Holmes. Remember how Sherlock solved the case of the Hound of the Baskervilles? He noted that the guard dog did not bark. After being attacked on Davis' blog, it's quite improbable that Mark Manning did not "bark."

We earlier saw how Davis' cohort Croz Walsh gave a lame excuse while repeatedly refusing to print one of Dakuwaqa's biting criticisms. Dakuwaqa gave up on Croz and published it on C4.5, instead.

Then there was the Fiji Sun's publication of Davis' attacks on Mick Beddoes. Beddoes cried foul when the Sun refused to publish his rebuttal.

And then, of course, the illegal regime Davis, Walsh, and the Sun all support has practiced heavy-handed press censorship for years, while at the same time lying through its teeth.

Davis cannot be held guilty by association, but we do see a continuing pattern here of intellectual cowardice and deceit by the regime and its supporters.

Looking more closely at Davis' assertions, his claim that the only person whose contributions were deleted is "someone who continually made racist remarks and threatened violence" also rings a bit hollow, given that he seemed to tolerate those remarks until the poster had the temerity to post a Dakuwaqa criticism in a rejoinder to Grubsheet. That criticism contained no racist remark or threat of violence, and yet it was immediately after that that Davis banned the poster from his site.

If racist and threatening remarks were the reasons why Davis stopped accepting the poster's comments, then why did Davis only pull the plug after the man's lengthy Dakuwaqa quotation?

Davis now has a credibility problem.

kite flyer said...

i see prof narsey has not provided an answer to my question to him : does fiji need a new constitution?

Anonymous said...

How many years did Graham Davis live in Fiji?? How can he know the Fiji situation when he was only in primary school?? Graham Davis you are definitely a foreigner!! You don't understand the situation at all!!

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