TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL OFFERS TO SERVE AS FIJI 'MEDIATOR'

* See PMW items 2422, 2421, 2419, 2418, 2412, 2411, 2406 at http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/pmw/; Backgrounder at http://www.asiapac.org.fj/cafepacific/resources/aspac/fiji5.html

SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 5, 1999 – Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)----The Fiji chapter of Transparency International last night called on news media and the Fiji Islands Government to "take time out" and offered to mediate in the controversy over media credibility.

Speaking at the University of the South Pacific's inaugural journalism awards, Transparency International Chairman Ikbal Jannif was critical of the lack of balance in media reporting of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's speech at the launching of the self-regulatory code of ethics last week.

Mr. Chaudhry made a bitter attack on the alleged lack of professionalism of the Fiji media, singling out the Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Islands Business news magazine and Fiji Television for scathing criticism.

Mr. Jannif asked why it took the news media almost a week to publish the full text of Mr. Chaudhry's speech. The Fiji Times published the text voluntarily and the rival Fiji Sun and Daily Post published Government paid advertisements carrying the speech.

"Why was there no full text of Mr. Chaudhry's speech published until the weekend?" Mr. Jannif asked.

"Why all the media hype about what he said, and why what he said was wrong, without the full text being published?

"Was the media implying that members of the public cannot think for themselves? Was the media afraid that many readers would agree with what the Prime Minister said?"

Mr. Jannif said, "It seems to me that the media wants everybody to be accountable, everyone that is, excluding itself."

He warned that the possibility of media legislation was "now very real."

"We all know, some of us from painful experience, that if you continue to poke a stick at a hornet's nest, the hornets will attack.

"Perhaps the media needs to learn that as well.

"Transparency International says 'enough is enough'. Like a basketball game, it is time to call a 'time out'. Both sides should withdraw from the play to the sidelines."

Mr. Jannif said that Transparency International was prepared to act as mediator between Government and the media to "bring some sense into this senseless argument."

The awards:

A Solomon Islands final year student, Duran 'Angiki, won the Fiji's Daily Post Prize of F$350 and the newsroom's Storyboard Award for his outstanding contribution to regional journalism. Last year’s winner was Maire Bopp of Tahiti.

A graduating Fiji Islands student, Emily Moli, scooped two awards — the Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association (PIBA) Prize of F$250 for radio journalism and the Fiji Television, Ltd. Prize of F$250 for best television journalism.

Luisa Tora, of Fiji, won the Caines Jannif Prize of F$250 for best in-depth stories for her background report on Fiji prisons policy and two front page bomb attack stories in the Fiji Times.

Litia Naigulevu, also of Fiji, won the Caines Jannif Prize of F$250 for best editor for her role as deputy editor of the Spicol Daily training newspaper, published in the Daily Post.

Journalism coordinator David Robie described the inaugural awards as a credit to the quality of the journalism students coming through the program.

* USP's Pacific Journalism Online website: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ 

Title -- 2431 FIJI: Transparency International offer as 'mediator' Date -- 5 November 1999 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Journalism Programme USP, 5/11/99 Copyright -- Journalism USP Status – Unabridged

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