PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH

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Annandale, Australia
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Suva, Fiji Islands

FIJI DAILY POST CHALLENGES PARLIAMENTARY ATTACK

*The new Fiji Islands government has had an ongoing critical view of local news media since the election campaign in April-May 1999. See also PMW items 2317, 2312, 2307, 2295, 2240, 2239, 2228, 2226, 2208, 2202, 2196, 2193, 2191, 2137, 2129. See http://www.pactok.net/docs/pmw/ or http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 28, 1999 – Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---One of two daily newspapers in the Fiji Islands, the Daily Post, has published an editorial condemning an attack in Parliament by an opposition member.

On August 27, 1999, Opposition MP Konisi Yabaki alleged that the Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry had given a directive to the Daily Post to report positively about it.

Yabaki also questioned whether articles were "censored" by the government.

On the same day, the Daily Post, in which the government has a controlling 44 per cent shareholding, published a 12-page liftout advertising supplement entitled "People's Coalition Government: 100 Days in Office." This followed an earlier government directive for state advertising to be placed in the Daily Post.

On August 28, Daily Post editor Jale Moala published an editorial headlined, "No, you are wrong, Yabaki" defending his newspaper's independence.

"The freedom of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution. The Daily Post, like any other independent, responsible and private newspaper, abhors censorship," the editorial said.

"However, we are sensitive to issues that are sensitive to the people of this country. Because of this we are careful when we report on issues like culture, religion and race.

The editorial also rejected a claim by Yabaki that "editorials in the Daily Post are communicated from the Prime Minister's Office."

"That is not true. The year's most famous attack on the government came from this newspaper when we commented on the attack on the media by the Assistant Minister for Information, Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi," the editorial said.

This was referring to a Daily Post editorial on June 23 headlined "Rubbish," which said: "There is only one way to describe the attack on the media by Assistant Minister for Information Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi: Rubbish. It is really not worth any other comment."

The rest of the editorial space was left blank.

The August 28 editorial cited good points about the newspaper - including having its coverage of the general election in May rated best by the University of the South Pacific journalism school; its business coverage attracting "wide readership"; and its Internet edition, http://www.fijilive.com, attracting "thousands of readers every day worldwide."

"The Daily Post may not be the best and fairest in the eyes of Konisi Yabaki," added the editorial. "That is his biased view of a newspaper that is courageous and innovative. From our point of view, we are doing all right."

*PMW: This is the strongest recent attack on the Daily Post after weeks of attacks by the government on the major daily newspaper, the Murdoch-owned Fiji Times.

Media analysts say that while both newspapers are independent, the Daily Post appears more sympathetic to government reforms favoring public services and the poorer sectors of the community, and the Fiji Times is sharply critical of the government's reverses of market economy rationalization policies and is sympathetic to business interests.

A third daily newspaper, the Fiji Sun, is expected to make its debut next week. It is said by industry sources to have its editorial policy heavily influenced by its major owners, grocery and commercial interests C J Patel and Co., Ltd., Vinod Patel and Co., Ltd., and Fijian Holdings, Ltd.

Title -- 2322 **FIJI: Daily Post challenges parliamentary attack Date -- 28 August 1999 Byline -- Press release Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Pacific Media Watch, 28/8/99 Copyright – PMW Status -- Unabridged

(c)1996-99 Copyright - All rights reserved.

CHAUDHRY ATTACKS MEDIA

*See PMW item 2317 at http://www.pactok.net/docs/pmw/ or http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html

SUVA , Fiji Islands (August 29, 1999 – Pacific Media Watch/Sunday Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry launched another scathing attack on the Fiji Islands press, accusing it of publishing false and misleading allegations concerning the government's policies.

Speaking to employers on Friday night, he described Fiji Television, Ltd. as presumptuous, arrogant and defiant in:

* Not informing the government early that it needed to recruit another expatriate as chief executive because a local was not ready; and

* Announcing the appointment of an expatriate before seeking approval from the government for his work permit.

"Instead, there was presumption, arrogance and defiance and the news media deliberately twisted and distorted it into an issue of media freedom," Mr. Chaudhry said.

"The issue was blown out of proportion by the media."

Mr. Chaudhry said the government's policy and procedures for expatriate work permits were precise and could be obtained from the Immigration Department.

He said the government welcomed foreign investment and appreciated the need to recruit expatriate skills in areas where local skills were scarce.

The government, he said, would uphold foreign companies' rights to have expatriates manage their investments in Fiji.

"Another false and misleading allegation recently perpetrated by the news media is that the Immigration Department will revoke the work permits of certain workers," Mr. Chaudhry said.

"This is far from the truth. I wish to make it clear that where a work permit has been issued, it cannot be revoked.

"I take this opportunity also to put your minds at rest on the misinterpretation, which has been deliberately made again by the news media, on the issue of a national minimum wage."

Mr. Chaudhry said his government never promised a blanket minimum wage of F$ 120 per week. Instead, his party quoted from a United Nations Development Program report that a family of four with a combined income of F$ 120 per week would be living below the poverty threshold.

Title -- 2325 FIJI: Prime Minister lambasts media again Date -- 29 August 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Sunday Times (Fiji), 29/8/99 Copyright – ST Status -- Unabridged

(c)1996-99 Copyright - All rights reserved.

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organization comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region.

Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

Items are provided solely for review purposes as a non-profit educational service. Copyright remains the property of the original producers as indicated. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright owner for any publishing. Copyright owners not wishing their materials to be posted by PMW please contact us. The views expressed in material listed by PMW are not necessarily the views of PMW or its members.

Recipients should rely on their own inquiries before making decisions based on material listed in PMW. Please copy appeals to PMW and acknowledge source.

For further information, inquiries about joining the Pacific Media Watch listserve, articles for publication, and giving feedback contact Pacific Media Watch at: E-mail: niusedita@pactok.net.au or: bfmedia@peg.apc.org Fax: (+679) 30 5779 or (+612) 9660 1804 Mail: PO Box 9, Annandale, NSW 2038, Australia or, c/o Journalism, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji Website: http://www.pactok.net/docs/pmw/

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting.

PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius:

niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html

ALERT INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION (IFEX) Toronto, Canada Website: http://www.ifex.org/

August 27, 1999

DELAY IN TABLING OF PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE FINDING ON FIJI ISLANDS NEWSPAPERS

SOURCE: Pacific Islands News Association (PINA), Suva. Updates IFEX alerts of 12 August and 5 July 1999. See: http://www.ifex.org/

On August 27, 1999, the Fiji Islands House of Representatives privileges committee requested more time to decide on an alleged breach of privilege by "The Fiji Times" and "Daily Post" newspapers.

Attorney-General Anand Singh, who chairs the committee, said the House members needed more time to collate their findings, "The Fiji Times" reported. He said the committee has met five times and representatives of the two dailies had appeared before it. "The Fiji Times" reported that it was scheduled to appear before the committee again on August 27 but, after waiting almost ninety minutes, it was told there was no quorum.

Editors Samisoni Kakaivalu, of "The Fiji Times," and Jale Moala, of the "Daily Post," are alleged to have disregarded a parliamentary ruling and reported "expunged" questions raised by Opposition Leader Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. The questions regarded alleged misuse of public funds by a current government minister when he was Fiji's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, the "Daily Post" has reported. It said the questions were ruled out of order by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Apenisa Kurisaqila.

The privileges committee makes a recommendation to the full House of Representatives. Under Fiji's Parliamentary Privileges and Powers Act those found guilty of breaching parliamentary privilege can be jailed for up to two years by the House.

BACKGROUND:

The Fiji Islands has among the most diverse and free news media in the Pacific Islands. They include: two seven-day-a-week English-language daily newspapers, with a third about to be launched; weekly newspapers in Hindi, Fijian, and English; news, business, trade and entertainment magazines; independent commercial, community and religious radio stations; government-owned public and commercial radio stations; and commercial and community television.

But the news media have come under continuing criticism from Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi since the election of the new Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government in May (see IFEX alerts). This has included threats to impose a government-regulated media council and to move against "foreign" interests.

For further information, contact: Nina Ratulele, Coordinator PINA Pacific Freedom of Information Network Pacific Islands News Association Mailing Address: Pacific Islands News Association Private Mail Bag, Suva Fiji Islands Street Address: Level 2, Damodar Centre 46 Gordon Street Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: +679 303623 Fax: +679 303943 E-mail: pina@is.com.fj Internet site: http://www.pressasia.org/PFA/

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of PINA. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit PINA.

DISTRIBUTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION EXCHANGE (IFEX) CLEARING HOUSE 489 College Street Toronto (ON) M6G 1A5 CANADA Tel: +1 416 515 9622 Fax: +1 416 515 7879 Alerts e-mail: alerts@ifex.org General e-mail: ifex@ifex.org Internet site: http://www.ifex.org/

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