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By Staff Reporters

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 2, 2002 - Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch)---An opposition member in Fiji's Parliament has called for an "urgent review" of the salaries of the country's journalists.

Ofa Swann, of the New Labour Party, told Parliament yesterday that journalists in Fiji were poorly paid.

It is the second time the issue has been raised in Parliament. The former Assistant Information Minister in Mahendra Chaudhry's Labour-led government, Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, brought up the question in 1999.

The issue has been the subject of intense debate in Fiji's media circles recently.

The University of the South Pacific's journalism student training newspaper, Wansolwara, carried out a survey of journalists' salaries in its June 2002 issue. Reporter Joe Yaya concluded that Fiji journalists were paid "poverty-line" salaries.

His findings were backed by former USP journalism coordinator David Robie, who said journalists in Fiji and the Pacific were being exploited by some proprietors who said they could not afford to pay more.

Media owners, in turn, say reporters' salaries are based on performance and those who do well are paid accordingly.

Swann, speaking on the Laisenia Qarase government's proposed new Media Bill, also defended journalists from recent attacks in Parliament.

"I find it hilarious and ironic that the media usually receive a whipping from the politicians. All I can say is that thank God we have a free media (which) informs us on a daily basis about what is happening around the nation," she said.

She called on the Speaker to censure members using their parliamentary privilege to denigrate reporters.

Swann also called for a scrapping of the proposed Media Bill, which she said, was not needed because a Fiji Media Council was already in place.

She said that for the sake of the nation and its people, the media must be totally independent for it was often referred to as the fourth arm of Government.

"The media can be both convenient and annoying. However, they are there for a reason and they are not just there for politicians," she said.



SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 3, 2002 Fiji Live/Daily Post/Pacific Media Watch)---Fiji Opposition Leader Prem Singh yesterday reminded local media to exercise responsibility while disseminating information to the people, the Daily Post reports.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday during debate on the new Media Bill, Singh said that while the media should be responsible in carrying out its job, members from both sides of the House should also respect and allow the free flow of information.

He stressed that media freedom imposed a corresponding responsibility on the press to be fair.

The sole National Federation Party member said both parties -- government and the media -- needed to respect and be fair to each other.

"Some honorable members on both sides of this House have in the last couple of days vilified certain media organizations and journalists for exposing their unethical and unscrupulous action. This is totally reprehensible and must be condemned," he said.

"In the last few months, I have been the target of certain individual journalists, who deliberately or otherwise, have distorted my remarks, made both inside and out of this House. But this does not give me the right to make wild accusations against the media."

Singh commended the media, saying it had behaved responsibly and efficiently in discharge of its duties.

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