FIJI NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER SINGH QUESTIONS STANDARD OF USP GRADUATES

SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 22, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji newspaper publisher Ranjit Singh has told of concern about declining standards of University of the South Pacific graduates, and poor relations between USP's journalism program and local media.

Mr. Singh, publisher of the English-language Daily Post and Fijian, Hindi, Rotuman and Chinese-language newspapers, spoke out while launching a USP journalism textbook.

Mr. Singh listed the many prominent Fiji leaders he graduated from USP with and said:

"Some of the crops that have come out of USP in recent years do not match the quality of our days. I say this with experience, feedback, and comments that others have made of the recent crops. And that includes in particular some journalist graduates as well as those in accounting and other fields.

"There obviously has to be something wrong somewhere, because the expressing power of some graduates leave a great deal to be desired.

"Perhaps USP courses have become too theory oriented and are taken by personnel who start and retire at the university with little practical industrial experience and outside and real world exposure. We practitioners could assist in workshops and seminars."

On problems between the USP journalism program and the Fiji media industry, Mr. Singh told those at the launching ceremony, at the university's Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture, Suva:

"I wish to touch on one issue that some of you may be aware of but would not wish to discuss. The issue here is the relationship USP’s journalism school has with the members of the Media Council in particular and Fiji media in general. I know it is less than cordial and this does not augur well for the development of journalism studies.

"I do not want to dwell on the reasons for this. However, I wish that those concerned at both ends were prepared to bury their hatchets, to grow up to work in a symbiotic relationship where all the parties can gain.

"The new Vice Chancellor has his hands full, but it would be nice if he were to make a difference.

"There is a greater need for cooperation and consultation between USP’s journalism school and ALL the media organizations in Fiji so that all students have best access to training opportunities and consequently we all can gain."

Mr. Singh also questioned the lack of legislation in Fiji preventing media organizations from publishing what he called racially selective, divisive and discriminating advertisements.

He said: "This matter was a subject of controversy in the papers recently and none other than Dr. Vijay Naidu, of USP, raised the issue that this matter had been raised with the concerned media organization, which prints such ads. I have personally raised this issue in the Media Council, but since there is no law prohibiting the media organization from publishing such racially discriminating ads, it has been a commercial decision for media groups to accept such ads.

"It is essential for the fourth estate to act extremely responsibly in light of the tender and sensitive developmental phase of the country’s political system. In recognition of this and despite no law prohibiting us, I am pleased to advise that Fiji Daily Post Company Limited is not only a responsible organization, but a conscientious one as well. For this reason we would filter all racially discriminating ads and would reject them should they be found to be racially divisive and against good taste.

"At the same time, it is important for the interested groups to lobby for legislation prohibiting such ads, which are not acceptable in NZ or Australia but are sneaked in for a few dollars more by some news organizations in Fiji."

The new textbook, The Pacific Journalist: A Practical Guide, was edited by USP's journalism coordinator, New Zealander David Robie. It is the third such book to focus on Pacific case studies and follows:

According to a USP news release, contributors to the latest text book include former Fiji Times and Daily Post editor Jale Moala, now migrated to New Zealand; AFP news agency Fiji correspondent Asha Lakhan; New Zealand journalist/lawyer Ingrid Leary and Radio Australia's Richard Dinnen.

The new book will be used as the core textbook for USP journalism students, the USP news release said.

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

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