FIJI SUN EDITORIAL BOARD RESIGNS

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See PMW reports 2412, 2411, 2406, 2378 http://www.pactok.net.au/docs/pmw/ 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 11, 2000 - Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The two-member editorial board of the troubled Fiji Sun newspaper has resigned in an ethical dispute over editorial content, according to industry sources.

In a statement to Pacific Media Watch on February 11, 2000, former chief sub editor Nalinesh Arun and former chief-of-staff Verleshwar Singh, confirmed that they had resigned "on purely ethical grounds" from the newspaper on February 1.

The Fiji Sun has been without an editor since October 1999 when founding editor-in-chief Connie Chew resigned -- one month after the newspaper was launched.

In the past few months the editorial direction of the newspaper has been decided by the editorial board. However, in January the management of the company engaged a local editorial consultant, Stan Ritova, a biographer of coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

Tensions over editorial content flared after the editorial board published an editorial on January 28 criticizing racial comments made by backbench parliamentarian Ratu Esira Rabuno of the Fijian Association Party (a government coalition partner).

The editorial discussed the pressure from one faction within the FAP, led by Ratu Tu‘uakitau Cokanauto, to split with the government.

The editorial said: "This paper at least knows that one of Ratu Tuki's supporters, Ratu Esira Rabuno, is a racist -- to quote:

"'The other issue is that one of the sons of Bau, from the noble family, being insulted by the Prime Minister who is a non-Fijian, Girmit as you know and low-class category ...'

"The above, captured on tape, clearly shows Ratu Esira has a low opinion of all Indians descended from the indentured labourers."

The editorial reportedly stirred a row with the company's stakeholders and publisher Tony Singh "came down hard" on the editorial board.

The following day's editorial, on January 29, written by Ritova, contradicted the earlier leader written by the editorial board.

This editorial said: "Having put our foot in the whole messy affair regarding the Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and Ratu Tu‘uakitau Cokanauto's political impasse in yesterday's Fiji Sun editorial, we would like to suggest that these leaders get together and patch things up for the good of the nation and multiracial harmony."

On February 3, the Daily Post reported that police were investigating Rabuno to see whether he would be charged under the Public Order Act for inciting racial hatred in his comment broadcast on Fiji television.

Under Section 17, it is an offence to promote feelings of enmity or ill will between different cultures and communities. The offence carries a maximum jail sentence of one year, or a fine of $500 or both.

The statement of the Sun's former editorial board claimed the two senior journalists had resigned because the Fiji Sun had "lost its integrity."

Both Arun and Singh now work with the The Review news magazine group.

In recent months, the newspaper has been plagued by reports of editorial interference by management.

* Publisher Tony Singh, a former marketing manager of the Fiji Times, is a shareholder in the company, Sun Fiji News, Ltd. Other shareholders include C J Patel and Co., Ltd, Vinod Patel and Co., Ltd and Fijian Holdings, Ltd.

The publisher of the original Fiji Sun, Newspapers of Fiji, Ltd, owned primarily by Sally Aw Sian, chairwoman of the Hongkong company Sing Tao Holdings, Ltd, and New Zealand publisher Philip Harkness withdrew from Fiji after the second military coup in September 1987.

Title -- **2549 FIJI: Fiji Sun editorial board resigns Date -- 11 February 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW, 11/2/00 Copyright – PMW Status – Unabridged

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