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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 1, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Strained relations between University of the South Pacific journalism program coordinator David Robie and Fiji media organization heads is of concern to the Fiji Media Council's complaints committee, the Pacific Islands News Association reports.

The committee commented on the problem as it dismissed complaints by the New Zealand academic against the Suva-based regional news and business publication Pacific Magazine.

The decision, signed by the independent complaints committee's chairman Daryl Tarte, said Robie's complaints should never have gone to adjudication and should have been settled by dialogue.

Robie had complained to the council after Pacific Magazine obtained and published a letter written by the then USP Vice Chancellor Esekia Solofa. In the letter, Solofa questioned Robie's behavior after the university administration closed the USP Journalism website during last year's Fiji coup crisis.

In its decision:

* The complaints committee upheld the right of Pacific Magazine to publish the letter, saying the controversy over the closure of the site had previously been given publicity and was of "public interest."

It said as head of the USP journalism program Robie is a media public figure. It also said it did not consider the letter "inaccurate, misleading or distorted."

But the complaints committee commented that the wording of the magazine's preamble was "unnecessarily provocative" and perhaps designed to denigrate Robie. It said: "Such personalized journalism is unnecessary."

The complaints committee also said it had "no hesitation" dismissing Robie's complaint that he was not given a "fair opportunity to reply."

The committee said the magazine tried to contact Robie before publication and later invited him to submit a letter stating his position.

The committee said: "The invitation to submit a reply was made in writing on 28th August but it was not until the 13th December that Mr. Robie declined the invitation saying it was then too late."

The committee said it also accepts that the magazine made a number of unsuccessful attempts to meet Mr. Robie and settle the matter by dialogue.

The complaints committee said that rather than making an effort to resolve differences dialogue was avoided and premature use of the complaints process sought.

It said the strained relationship that had existed for some time between Robie and heads of some Fiji media organisations:

It said it hoped these long-standing differences could be reconciled.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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