PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH

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THE NEED FOR MORE RESPONSIBLE FIJI MEDIA

By Ratu Josefa Dimuri Assistant Minister for Information Government of the Fiji Islands Suva

DAILY POST January 21, 1999

There has recently been a spate of reports in the mass media, which in my view, are good examples of very bad journalism.

I am, therefore, taking this opportunity to remind all of you in the mass media of the need to show more responsibility, sensitivity and accountability in the reports that you write in your particular medium.

I cannot over emphasize the need to be accurate and to be factual in your reporting. In interpretive reporting, you all know the need to be fair, objective and balanced in what you write. Let me now quote a few examples.

The Fiji Times, for example, in a front page report said that Minister for Lands and Mineral resources, Ratu Timoci Vesikula, was "grilled" in cabinet on the proposed sale of Government quarters and land in [Suva's] Domain.

I was in cabinet yesterday [January 19, 1999] and there was no such grilling. There were full discussions on the paper presented by the minister on the sale and there was ready consensus and agreement on the proposal to sell the houses identified by the Public Service Commission as being surplus to the housing requirement of Government.

Another good example of bad reporting was the front page report in the Daily Post last Monday on the position of Ratu Finau Mara in politics. When you read the report, it is clear that what was published was based purely on hearsay.

There was never any attempt to contact the primary course for corroboration and confirmation, and that was Ratu Finau himself.

So as it turned out, the report was completely false, inaccurate and misleading. In light of subsequent developments it is now known that Ratu Finau has in fact opted for a diplomatic posting. Therefore, all that the report in the Daily Post on Monday has done is to damage the credibility and reputation of the writer.

Now, what I think is the worst example of bad and irresponsible journalism is what is appearing in Mesake Koroi's column in the Daily Post.

His linking of the Government loan to Viti Corp, Ltd. to the purchase by the Prime Minister [Sitiveni Rabuka] of his land at Valavala Estate has no basis whatsoever in fact.

Likewise, his association by inference and insinuation of the Prime Minister's purchase of his house in Namadi Heights with certain Chinese connections again has no basis in fact and truth.

These are all classic examples of false, malicious and biased writings. There was never any attempt by the writer to seek corroboration of any of his allegations. Clearly his column is nothing but a series of speculative statements based on gossip, hearsay and conjecture.

As Assistant Minister for Information, I am lodging a formal complaint with the Fiji Media Council on this kind of false and malicious allegations by people like Mesake Koroi.

What is disconcerting about the whole situation is that when we write to the Daily Post for corrections, some of these letters are not published and I have received many complaints of this from many citizens.

So whilst the Daily Post is allowing this kind of speculative and gossip mongering reports to be published in its pages, it is at the same time exercising censorship on the rights of citizens to respond to false and malicious allegations.

Title -- 1874 MEDIA: Fiji minister criticizes press Date -- 21 January 1999 Byline -- Ratu Josefa Dimuri, Assistant Minister for Information Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Daily Post (Fiji), 21/1/99 Status -- Unabridged [PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH NOTE: The Daily Post is one of Fiji's two daily newspapers. It is locally owned while its rival daily is foreign owned. It has at the helm the country's most experienced editor and tries to vigorously and fairly report developments in the Fiji Islands. With a general election due next May, many insights are being provided by the newspaper's chief-of-staff, Mesake Koroi, one of Fiji's most widely read independent political columnists.]

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