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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 6, 1999 - Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's main daily newspaper, the Fiji Times, has reported allegations by the opposition Fiji Labour Party that national news media have been "orchestrating an election propaganda" campaign aimed at preventing the party from forming the next government.

The paper reported on 6 May 1999 that the Fiji Times and Radio Navtarang had been singled out by party leader Mahendra Chaudhry as two leading media organizations which had allegedly failed to give equal coverage to Labour (FLP) during the current election campaign.

According to the Fiji Times, Chaudhry had told an election rally in the capital of Suva on May 5 that the news media must be fair in its coverage of the campaign. He claimed the Fiji Times had failed to provide equal coverage of its political meetings.

"They will have to learn to deal with us because we will form the next government," Chaudhry reportedly said.

He also condemned the Hindi-language Radio Navtarang for refusing to broadcast an FLP commercial which contained comments by the opposition National Federation Party leader, Jai Ram Reddy, at a previous election claiming that he would never form an alliance with the government of Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.

Reddy's party has forged an alliance with Rabuka's ruling Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei party for this election, with polling from May 8-15.

Chaudhry claimed the media was working more closely with the SVT, NFP and the small United General Party in an attempt to gag Labour during the campaign.

Labour led the democratically elected government in 1987 which was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Rabuka, then the third-ranking officer in the Fiji military.

The Fiji Times, owned by a subsidiary company of Rupert Murdoch's transnational News Corporation, published the allegations without editorial comment.

Radio Navtarang is owned by Communications Fiji, Ltd, whose managing director, William Parkinson, is also president of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), the region's organization of newspaper publishers/owners and private broadcasters.

Ironically, the Daily Post, the newspaper in which the Fiji government bought a controlling share during February, has been regarded by observers as being the most critical publication of the government during the election campaign.

Title -- 2099 FIJI: News media accused of election bias Date -- 6 May 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW/Fiji Times, 6/5/99 Copyright -- PMW/FT Status -- Unabridged

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