INTERIM GOVERNMENT BACKS LAUNCH OF NEW FIJI HINDI PAPER

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 25, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's interim government yesterday showed its support for the launch of a newspaper published in Fiji Hindi. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and two of his senior ministers turned up for the launching ceremonies.

The weekly Ramneek Post is being produced by Fiji's Daily Post and is the first newspaper to use Fiji Hindi, the local version of Hindustani. It will compete with the Fiji Times Limited weekly Shanti Dut, which uses Hindustani.

Prime Minister Qarase told Daily Post management and staff: "As locals, you have not allowed yourselves to be discouraged or daunted by the many prophets of doom and gloom who, in my view, are being unduly pessimistic about our future.

"Instead you have shown that when people are confident, and are determined to overcome adversity, there is really nothing to prevent them from investing further to secure the future of their business."

Mr. Qarase was accompanied to the launching ceremony at the Daily Post offices in central Suva by Minister for Information and Communication Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Minister for Public Enterprise and Public Sector Reform, Hector Hatch.

Mr. Qarase spoke of the role of the media in the rebuilding now under way following the crisis sparked by the May 19 take over of Parliament by armed rebels.

He said: "I am a great believer in the freedom of free expression, including the freedom of media organizations. I strongly believe that the media has a very important role in the development of our country.

"This role is doubly important now, especially when there is no Parliament to keep and maintain a watchful eye on government. The people look to you, as the Fourth Estate, to be the vehicle through which to articulate and express their views, their concerns and their needs to those in authority.

"On behalf of the people, and again as the Fourth Estate, you are to be the guardian of the people's collective interests -- making sure that the government is open, honest and accountable.

"But quite apart from its watchdog role, the media itself should be ever conscious that it can have a very strong influence on public thinking and perception.

"This is healthy so long as the information disseminated are accurate, truthful and without any bias. This is how I perceive the role of the media -- as a tool for development and nation building, rather than as a weapon for attacking, criticizing and vilifying innocent people or of creating and exacerbating racial suspicions and tension s between our communities.

"It should be a tool for promoting national reconciliation and unity, but not to undermine the economic and social foundation for a mutually caring and compassionate society.

"It should be a forum for meaningful debate to assist in our search for national solutions, rather than as a forum to propagate division, hatred and disenchantment.

"To play this role successfully, you as a media organization will need to properly and timely inform members of the public, particularly our rural population. It is vitally important for our people to be better informed, to be told accurately and without bias what is going on, in the neighborhood and in the country as a whole.

"This is where the Ramneek Post comes in. You will be playing your role fully and responsibly if you are helping people and their family to make informed choices on issues that affect them directly, and our collective future as a nation."

Daily Post publisher and general manager Ranjit Singh told the launching ceremony that as well as starting Ramneek Post the company has revamped its Fijian-language paper Volasiga.

"Their respective editors Tej Ram Prem and Maika Bolatiki have heavy burdens and responsibilities on their shoulders. This is because, among other things, the objective of these papers is to promote cross-cultural understanding.

"We intend to reserve at least a page weekly in both the papers for this purpose. This is a good start for building the bridges and the reconciliatory process."

Mr. Singh also stressed that while the government is the biggest shareholder in the Daily Post, the company's newspapers are not government mouthpieces.

"If anything we have at times been more critical of it, and boldly so, than anybody else," he said.

The company now publishes the English-language Daily Post and Sunday Post, Fijian-language weekly Volasiga and the Hindi-language Ramneek Post.

The Fiji Times publishes the daily The Fiji Times, Sunday Times, Fijian-language weekly Nai Lalakai and the Shanti Dut.

The Fiji Sun publishes the daily Fiji Sun and the Sunday Sun.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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