Fiji Media Office Lambasts USP Journalists’ Press Release

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Academics decried treatment of media during PIDF summit

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 25, 2014) – MIDA chairman Ashwin Raj has described as "unsubstantiated and anachronistic" statements made by two USP Journalism academics that the Fijian Government and military continues to "intimidate" journalists and in the case of the latter, "torture" some.

Patrick Craddock, the Acting Journalism Coordinator for the USP Journalism program in a statement issued Sunday had implied the treatment of Samisoni Pareti and Netani Rika where the former was denied accreditation to cover the PIDF Summit in Nadi last week, and the latter was followed by police enquiring about his whereabouts as "one more indicator of the way the military government intimidates journalists leading up to the general election".

In the same statement, Journalism lecturer Dr. Matthew Thompson, described as disgusting comments by the new military chief's in The Age, in which he confirmed reports of beatings after the events of 2006 "to ward off civil disorder."

[PIR editor’s note: Fijilive reported that "The University of the South Pacific (USP) has distanced itself from a press release issued by two of its staff members on media freedom alleging tactics by the Fijian Government and military to "intimidate" local journalists. ... The University would like to clarify that the views expressed by Dr Matt Thompson and Mr Patrick Craddock in the interview and the press release are solely their own and not those of the university, the university said in a statement."]

Raj described the statements as irresponsible as the academics had not made the effort to ascertain the facts before issuing the release.

"A quick call to MIDA office would have confirmed that Mr Pareti is registered with MIDA and my own view is that he should have been given access to PIDF but that is not MIDA's call.

"Furthermore, did they find out the nature of questions posed by the police to Mr Rika? Did the process of questioning entail "torture"? If so, have they produced any evidence. Why wasn't an official complaint lodged with MIDA before rushing into sending a press release on Sunday considering that the alleged incident transpired only a few days ago at the PIDF?" Raj says the allegations are serious and gives the impression that Fiji is still in 2006 despite the progress the country has made so far include the release of the 2013 Constitution and preparatory work that has been done to date to move the country into election in September.

"The political situation in Fiji maybe less than ideal but a lot has been achieved since 2006 and we must move beyond the tireless debate between legality and legitimacy and instead focus their energy on moving Fiji towards full democracy." He also advised local journalists to refrain from such practices and continue "to engage a plurality of voices." He further clarified that MIDA had only intervened on matters of national importance in relation to the media "in its efforts in ensuring respect for the rights, freedom and dignity of all Fijians not just a select few whether it be the issue of racial vilification, hate speech or the persecution of sexual minorities in advertising."

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