MINISTER HITS BACK AT FIJI PUBLISHERS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 6, 2000 – Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi has hit back at two prominent publishers in Fiji, rejecting their warnings against government imposing regulations on the press.

The publishers of Islands Business news magazine and the Fiji Times daily newspaper had said in a Media Freedom Day message published by the Fiji Times on May 4, 2000 that while the Fiji Islands enjoyed media freedom, it would be a grave mistake to impose regulations to muzzle it.

Islands Business publisher Robert Keith-Reid said the press was free from restrictions and the situation seemed likely to continue.

"But it would be a grave mistake to impose licensing because the first indicator that potential investors look for in a country is whether media organizations are free to report on issues.

"Licensing would be a poor reflection on Fiji and on investor worthiness," he said.

Fiji Times publisher Alan Robinson said his newspaper had faced problems with the previous government as well as the current one.

"But the relationship with the current government (led by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry) is far more hostile and vindictive," he said.

In a letter published in the Fiji Times on May 6, Minister Vayeshnoi said: "The government has made it clear that it has no intention of controlling the media."

"Neither has the government threatened to appoint its own media council.

"The proposed media legislation is the result of the Thomson Foundation report which recommended the establishment of an independent Media Council and Code of Ethics and Practice," wrote Vayeshnoi.

"As already announced, the media will be consulted on the proposed media legislation during the drafting process, which is now in its initial stages.

"The warning by the two publishers is uncalled for as the government upholds the right of the press to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in our constitution."

Title -- 2700 FIJI: Minister hits back at publishers Date -- 6 May 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW/Fiji Times, 6/5/00 Copyright – PMW Status -- Unabridged

 

FIJI SUN CONDEMNED IN SENATE OVER PHOTO

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 6, 2000 – Pacific Media Watch/Fiji Sun/Radio Fiji/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji's newest daily newspaper, the Fiji Sun, has been condemned in the Senate for misrepresentation over a front-page photograph and caption depicting two senators, according to radio and press reports.

Radio Fiji reported on May 5, 2000 that the president of the Senate, Jokapeci Koroi, had challenged Fiji news media to report factually while she condemned a photo showing her talking to Senator Atu Emberson-Bain, which purported to have been taken on Thursday.

In fact, it was a file picture unrelated to the reported events.

The picture appeared to have shown Senator Bain as having violated Tongan mourning protocol by wearing a colored outfit instead of the traditional black. She had actually been wearing black, as she was in mourning for a close relative in Tonga.

Editor Stan Ritova ran an apology in his daily "Close-up" gossip column on May 6, saying: "We apologize to Senator Bain for the error and we assure her that it was done in good faith not knowing that she was in mourning."

His explanation was that the picture had been taken earlier but was picked out for publication on Thursday evening because of an absence of a Senate photograph to accompany the story.

The picture showed Senator Koroi brandishing a finger to Senator Bain (both are ruling Labour Party stalwarts, Koroi being the party president) and the caption read in part: "We must tell them this!"

According to a Fiji Sun news report on May 6, Senator Koroi said, "I urge the news media and particularly the Fiji Sun to ensure correct and factual reporting of events in a responsible manner.

"I hope that heed will be taken of my request, although similar requests from this chair previously have not been fully heeded."

Senator Koroi said the photograph and the caption had created the impression that she had attempted to undermine the impartiality of the Senate.

"I wish to inform the House that while I sit in this chair, I will discharge my duties and obligations without fear or favor and in an impartial manner," she said.

"The caption purports to refer to this photograph having been taken yesterday. This is also not true."

Senator Koroi said that Senator Emberson-Bain had been wearing black all week because she was mourning the death of a close Tongan relative.

However, the picture showed her wearing colored clothing.

"According to Tongan custom she has been wearing black since the beginning of the week and will continue to do so for the next 12 months," she said.

"The caption depicting her in dress other than in black and stating that the picture was taken yesterday implies that she is deliberately being insensitive and deliberately disrespectful to her custom."

*The Fiji Sun has frequently been criticized over alleged lack of accuracy since it began publishing in September 1999 and was the following month fined F$ 3,000 (US$ 1,446) for contempt of court.

Title -- 2699 FIJI: Fiji Sun condemned in Senate over photo Date -- 6 May 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- PMW/Fiji Sun/Radio Fiji, 5-6/5/00 Copyright – PMW Status -- Unabridged

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