Showing posts with label Fiji media bias. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiji media bias. Show all posts

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Crouching Newspaper, Soaring Blog- The Future Of Journalism?

David Robbie's latest blog posting, is updated with developments at the UNESCO funded Pacific Media Freedom Forum, held recently at Apia Samoa.

What was interesting in that particular forum, is that most of discussions were centered on Fiji, as David Robie suggests:

The Fiji challenge kept bubbling to the surface, leading to a spirited debate on the future of PINA at one session and feisty calls for the regional news service Pacnews to get out of Suva at others. Fiji dominated all the speeches on the opening day with several of the region's media freedom heavyweights giving the regime a hard time - but they also warned that the young generation coming through into the industry should not be seduced by government freebies.

Ironically, while those journalists were enjoying their well-endorsed junket in Apia, oblivious to the fact that media freedom is not the central story.

It seems that, the diplomatic negotiations to the Pacific Free Trade Plan (PACER Plus) and the detrimental effects of this Trans-Tasman lobbied treaty; has somewhat not registered highly on their list of priorities; despite the notion that those negotiations affect all Pacific Island states.

Is the lack of coverage on those trades negotiations, a clear demonstration that most news published in the Pacific, is viewed through the prism of their Australian or New Zealand Publisher or Editor?

The funny thing about these Pacific media Forums is that these journalists, really don't focus much on Pacific trade negotiations with EU, US or Australia or New Zealand or even in-depth coverage of their own industry and the future trends of their profession based on the current global events like the changing landscape of the news paper business.
It's just that Freedom of the Media, is a story that elevates sales and elevated sales mean elevated circulations. SiFM fills in this lack of analytical and balanced coverage.

Last week, the Boston Globe almost filed for bankruptcy, according to New York Times article. Even the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announced the following Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet hearing: The Future of Journalism on Weds. May 6th 2009. Video of webcast.

St Louis Today article quoted from Senator John Kerry (D-MA.)from the hearing: "The Newspaper industry appears to be an endangered species"

Another marked absence from media discussions among Pacific journalists was the story about News Corp CEO, Rupert Murdoch claiming that the era of free content on the internet is over. According to Chicago Tribune article, News Corp took a "financial beating" in the first quarter, ending in March 2009.

Guardian journalist Mark Tomasky pointed out the perceived madness of Rupert, in his blog:

Is Rupert Murdoch losing it?

Murdoch's plan to charge for access to his newspapers on the internet is a sign he's lost his touch
Comments (110)

I guess there was more important news this morning – Pakistan, the American banks – but it was Rupert Murdoch who caught my attention. I was stunned to read Andy Clark's dispatch in the Guardian this morning about Murdoch planning on charging for access to his properties on the internet.

Look, Rupe usually knows what he's doing. But this really flies in the face of common sense. He argues that the Wall Street Journal's experience proves that one can successfully charge readers for internet access to one's newspapers.

But does it? The Journal and the Financial Times, are kind of sui generis. They're financial newspapers, read by a global financial elite. You can charge global financial elites to read a tailored product of financial news.

But can you do the same with regular readers, to get them to read general-interest news? The universal experience has been that you can't.

The New York Times tried it and got hammered. It charged for so-called "Times Select" content – most prominently the paper's famous opinion columnists like Paul Krugman and David Brooks – for a little while, hoping to crowbar $50 a year out of saps like me.

It worked in my case, but there was a general hue and cry against it (not least from the columnists themselves). The paper quit charging for this premium content, and the whole experiment was chalked up a disaster.

And now Rupert thinks general readers who refused to pay for the quality New York Times are going pay for the proletarian New York Post? And the Sun and the News of the World? And for that matter the Times (your Times). If people didn't pay for our Times (the New York one – let's face it, an immeasurably better newspaper these days, such that there's utterly no comparison anymore between the two), why will they pay for yours? I just don't see it.

Maybe he's got something up his sleeve. I'm thinking about the New York Post here, a property I know quite well. I bet Murdoch would say, of the Times' experiment, that their mistake was to put the highfalutin stuff behind the pay wall. People aren't really that interested in politics.

So his bet, instead, might be on gossip and sports.

The Post has the most famous newspaper gossip page in America, Page Six. It started as, well, a page in the newspaper, and actually used to be on page six. Now it's an industry. It runs to three or four pages in the paper most days, has been moved back to page 12 or so while retaining its brand name. There's also a weekend supplement magazine under the brand, and I think there's some kind of TV deal.

It's huge. Movers and shakers in New York and Hollywood (but Washington not so much) read it religiously.

But will they still read it if they have to pay for it? With Gawker and Perez Hilton and TMZ out there? I think some will. I'm not sure tens of thousands will.

Same with sports. The Post's sports pages are terrific. But they don't strike me as being quite so terrific that people will forego several roughly-as-good free alternatives.

As for Britain, well, the only thing I can think is that he's going to put the big knockers behind the pay wall. But of course a lot of that's free on the web these days too (at least the first look).

Maybe he knows something the rest of the world doesn't. He often has. Or maybe he's just losing his touch. I was surprised also to read in Clark's piece about the jaw-dropping decline in News Corp profits. The newspaper division collapsed, and the television profits went up in smoke.

Hey, if Murdoch's right, he might introduce the rest of the world to the model that can save the newspaper once and for all. That'd be something to celebrate. Or it could be that we're getting to the end of the Murdoch era. In that case, I wouldn't cry.

On the Media(OTM), added the combined the paid online content angle, with a story that featured Associated Press's concerns about the free news stories on the internet. The OTM story feature titled "Google Me Once".

The excerpt of the story transcript:

Google Me Once

April 10, 2009

This week, the Associated Press fired a shot across the bow of news aggregation sites like Google and the Huffington Post. Without calling any site out by name, the AP said they would take legal action against websites that use their content without paying. Business Week's media columnist Jon Fine says news companies seem ready to ask consumers to pay for content again.

This is On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield. And now the latest on present and future business models for monetizing the newspaper industry.

GROUP SINGING: Present and future business models for monetizing the newspaper industry.

: The past couple of weeks have been very bad for those who believe that all content wants to be free. With a glut of online advertising inventory depressing not only online ad rates but ad rates across all media, the titans who had long traded content for eyeballs were rethinking their calculus.

News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch said, quote, “People are used to reading everything on the Net for free, and that’s going to have to change.” Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, unveiled a plan that would let people see cable programming free online, but only if they're cable subscribers in the first place. And the Associated Press, apparently disgusted with news sites like Google for selling ads adjacent to Google News aggregated from the AP and others, said, no more free lunch. If you want AP content, you need permission and you need to pay for it.

Jon Fine, media columnist for Business Week, says this had something to do with the freefall of media revenue and something to do with negotiating tactics.

Google and the AP have a licensing agreement. Coincidentally enough, that licensing deal is up at the end of this year. And the thing that’s starting to rankle the Associated Press, and, indeed, newspapers and content providers, broadly, is that a lot of users are perfectly happy just to go to Google News, look at the headline and the first two sentences and decide they've basically had enough; they've gotten what they need out of it.

That is not – bad word alert - monetized for the people who are making these stories.

You know, back in January, on this very show, the owner of Philadelphia Media Holdings, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News, complained that he wasn't able to monetize his Web operation and said that papers have to start charging for content. Three weeks later his company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And other voices have since come out to say, we have to charge, we have to charge, we have to charge. But - but just how? Is anyone doing that?

JON FINE: Some people are doing that. The Wall Street Journal is doing it. There are a couple of smaller examples elsewhere. There’s a website, I believe, called Packers Insider. If you’re an absolute, diehard, screaming, insane fan of the Green Bay Packers you pay five bucks a month and get every data point you could possibly want on them.

There’s a newspaper in Little Rock called The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Their site is primarily paid. The problem with that is that it’s kind of hard to extrapolate that to The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, you know, the local newspaper in Dubuque.

I think that what we're going to see a lot of is all newspapers are going to try like sort of subsites that there’s a pay wall around. It’s not like all of a sudden you won't be able to access anything on The Denver Post. It’s rather that The Denver Post or, you know, The Salt Lake City Tribune are going to try to find little areas where they can, you know, get some money out of users.

The problem is, is that it’s kind of hard to see a way where that makes a heck of a lot of money. The newspaper in Little Rock is often pointed to as kind of a success here, but I think they maybe have, gosh, you know, 5,000, 10,000 paid users. That comes to a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, and if you are a big city newspaper that’s just not going to get you anywhere, especially when they're facing ad losses and, indeed, just losses, period.

The New York Times did try at one point to wall off some of its premium content with a program it called TimesSelect, changing people extra to see certain columns and so forth, finally abandoned TimesSelect because it was depressing online traffic and they needed online traffic to generate more advertising revenue.

JON FINE: I think the problem with TimesSelect was that it was kind of a half measure. Their political columnists and their foreign policy columnists aren't necessarily content areas where advertisers were dying to get next to them. Advertisers don't love hard political content, which is a problem that someone like Arianna Huffington’s Huffington Post is going to run into. But they thought by doing it in a small way it could work out for them.

I'm not sure it was as enormous a failure as it was. I mean, they did get a substantial number of subscribers. They just decided they could get more the other way.

In the meantime, people like us have been trained that everything is for free. Can we be untrained to pay subscriptions for online content or, you know, some sort of micro-payments to buy content a la carte?

JON FINE: The problem is free is very hard to beat. If you go to an awful lot of newspaper classified websites, you can click through, they're easily searchable, they look pretty decent, whereas Craigslist, as we all know, is just this kind of like online bazaar that’s like, you know, the wall at your college where you used to tack up various garish flyers – but it’s free.

It’s a great price point.

And I think, you know, the danger is if, say, someone like The Minneapolis Star Tribune, another newspaper that’s in bankruptcy, decides to put all of their site behind a pay wall, well, there happens to be a local online news start-up called, - they'd be ecstatic with that. And, you know, they have reporters and they're doing similar kinds of stories, and you’re going to have that kind of free/paid dichotomy.

It’s really tricky. If it was easy to figure out, someone would have figured it out by now. I mean, did these guys make a mistake in making it free at the very beginning? You know, maybe. Maybe. Can that genie be gotten back in the bottle? Maybe, but I wouldn't want to have to bet on it. The problem is there’s not much else for these guys to bet on right now.

BOB GARFIELD: Jon, thank you so much.

Thanks, Bob.

BOB GARFIELD: Jon Fine is contributor to CNBC and the media columnist for Business Week.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Document in Question.

The allegations of emails being hacked in Fiji, are being spun heavily by the Fiji media. Concerns of privacy aside, what are the facts of the issue?
Local lawyer, Graham Leung admits to be the author of a document titled " Exposing the Lie" which was circulated to a Public Relations consultant, Matt Wilson for his advice.

Interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had summoned the Fiji Times Publisher to address the contents and accuracy of that particular document, in relation to the recent media coverage on allegations of tax evasion, which seemingly appeared to be unfair and unbalanced.

Background on Graham Leung.

Lawyer representing, Ballu Khan regarding the allegations of financing an assassination plot and also represents former Chief Justice, Daniel Fatiaki.
Leung, the Vice-President of LAWASIA was prevented from attending a legal conference in New Zealand, according to an article published by Lawyers Weekly online. Leung was also involved in pressuring LAWASIA President, Mah Weng Kwai to resign from the newly from corruption unit known as FICAC, the resignation was reported in a Fiji Times article.

Background on Matt Wilson.

Former Fiji Times journalist and speech writer for deposed Fiji Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase. Owner of Public Relations firm, Matt Wilson Ltd, Director and Major Shareholder of Communications Fiji Ltd, according to their website.

Fiji Sun article quotes from Telecom Fiji employee regarding the legality of phone tapping.

Phone tapping illegal: Telecom
Last updated 3/20/2008 8:19:52 AM

Any directive to tap into personal telephone lines can only come from the President, says Telecom.

Telecommunication Fiji Limited acting chief executive officer Taito Tabaleka said the permission to tap into any person’s phone calls could only come from Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Mr Tabaleka said the company did not receive any such order from Ratu Josefa in the recent past to tap into telephone conversations.
“Under the Telecom Act, only the President can order to have a telephone tapped and only under extreme situations like for national security reasons,’’ he said.

“Only then does TFL implement necessary equipment to satisfy the request from the President. “Under the current situation we’d like to confirm that no such order has been received.”

Mr Tabaleka however did not say whether any other organisation in the country had the necessary equipment to tap into and listen to phone conversations. He also did not say if phone conversations were safe.

The revelation came after concerns were raised over the suspected tapping of phones and lines belonging to individuals and organisations.Meanwhile, a media consultant yesterday alleged to have been threatened by a military personnel over an article he had edited.

Matt Wilson, a public affairs and media consultant, said he was threatened by someone he suspected to be from the military over professional editorial services he had provided for a draft article sent to him by Suva lawyer Graham Leung.

In a statement, Mr Wilson said the article critical of the interim regime was similar to countless others he had done in his career. “Mr Leung’s draft contained some forthright comment but I did not think it was particularly strident,’’ he said.
“I have seen more outspoken commentaries on the local situation.

It was for Mr Leung to ensure that the final version was accurate.” Mr Wilson said at about 5.40pm a caller speaking in a loud and aggressive voice demanded to speak to him.

“I asked who was calling and I thought I heard the name ‘Sota’ or ‘Sotia’,’’ he said. “He told me to be careful and to watch out, and said “we know what you are doing”. “He said “we have intercepted your letter to the Fiji Times”.

Then he put the receiver down.” “Of course, there was no letter from me to the Fiji Times. There was a draft article that I believe Mr Leung intended to send to that newspaper.”

Mr Leung had told an overseas journalist that he had also been threatened by someone from the military over that same letter.

In an article on Radio Fiji website, Fiji Times Editor has disputed the recent comments of the Interim Attorney General, regarding the article written by controversial lawyer, Graham Leung.

The excerpt of the Radio Fiji article:

‘Come out with proof’ says newspaper
Monday, March 17, 2008

The Fiji Times has questioned the Attorney-General office to come out with proof of allegations he made last Friday of articles which the newspaper states does not exist.

Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika in responding to the AG’s claims at a media conference says it’s unfair of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to make accusations on non-existent articles.

“To be intimidated over an issue which doesn’t even exist and which is being created by the Interim Attorney General himself I don’t think that’s fair on anyone.

“We have made a current check of our database and nothing existed there, I don’t know where he got the documents from and so it’s actually for him to say where he got the documents from and what is contained in them,” he said.

Rika adds the Attorney-General needs to support his claim against columnist James Bolavucu because as far as he’s concerned Bolavucu has been a regular contributor who lives in the United Kingdom.

On Friday, the AG also claimed that the interim government was reliably informed that Bolavucu was not corresponding from the UK but from Tamavua.

The excerpt of the Fiji Times article:

Military threatened me, Leung tells Radio NZ

Monday, March 17, 2008

SUVA lawyer Grahame Leung yesterday told Radio New Zealand he received a threatening phone call from the military this week.

Mr Leung told Radio NZ the threatening call he received was over an article he was writing for The Fiji Times, criticising the interim Government. He is representing New Zealander Ballu Khan who is charged with conspiring to kill interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and some other interim Government members. Mr Leung could not be reached for a comment on the issue yesterday.

However, New Zealand lawyer Peter Williams, QC, who is also representing Mr Khan told Radio NZ he was worried for Mr Leung, given the number of incidents in which people had died or were beaten while in custody.

Mr Williams said there was the potential for violence, as there seemed to be a lack of control and restraint in Fiji at present. When asked yesterday if police had received any complaints from Mr Leung on the issue, assistant police spokesman Corporal Josaia Weicavu said they had not.

On Thursday last week, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had summoned The Fiji Times Publisher Evan Hannah to his office.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in a press conference the same afternoon that the meeting was to discuss the possible publication of certain articles that the Prime Minister's Office had received on Thursday afternoon. He said the PM's Office received a couple of articles from within The Fiji Times that apparently were going to be printed as an opinion piece.

[Sayed-Khaiyum] said the interim Government believed the articles contained factual inaccuracies, was highly emotive and discussed matters that were in court.

The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had done himself, the media and country a great disservice by trying to create a situation that did not exist.

Mr Rika said perhaps Mr Sayed-Khaiyum should make known everything that he said to the publisher during their meeting.

Leung ratchets up his paranoia by another notch stating in a Fiji Village article that his emails are being hacked and phones tapped. That allegation was also covered by Radio Fiji article. The excerpt:

Leung believes ‘phone’s being tapped’
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Suva lawyer Graham Leung believes his phone lines could be tapped. Leung had reportedly claimed he was being threatened last week for an article, which a local daily never published.

Speaking to Radio Australia, he says an overseas journalist had told him his phone was giving a lot of echo during the course of an interview.

“You can call it if you like a sixth sense, I do feel that my communication has been intercepted”.

Pacific Beat had asked the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum if there’s email hacking or phone tapping activity going on. “Absolutely, I have never authorized anybody to tap phones or hack into emails.

“The point is its unfortunate it appears to me that if a certain group of people in Fiji makes an allegation, suddenly it becomes the truth and not the allegation,” he said.

Fiji Times article amplifies Leung's anger over the claims of hacked emails.

The excerpt:

Breach angers lawyer Leung

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SUVA lawyer Graham Leung is almost certain his office computers have been hacked after a series of electronic correspondence were intercepted by parties other than the intended recipient.

He said several weeks ago, an email by one of his colleagues (at Howards Lawyers) to someone in New Zealand was leaked.

"A list of cases that were sent to me from my New Zealand lawyer who I am assisting with the Chief Justice's case before a Tribunal, found its way into the hands of third parties unconnected with the case," said Mr Leung.

"The final evidence was when a media consultant whom I emailed a draft copy of an article I am researching, received a phone call last Friday about the same time as I did and was told 'Be careful, watch out. We know what you are doing. We have intercepted a letter to The Fiji Times'."

He confirmed yesterday the number recorded on the caller ID of his land telephone line was from the Queen Elizabeth Barracks 3385222 - although the caller did not identify himself.

Calls to the military's media cell yesterday afternoon were unanswered.

At a press conference last week, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Prime Minister's Office received a couple of articles that were written as an opinion piece and was to be published by this newspaper. This is the same article Mr Leung was compiling but which had not been released to The Fiji Times.

Mr Leung said with the availability of modern satellites, spying on people thousands of miles away and computer hacking would be quite easy.

But, he said, his article that was in the interim Government's possession, could not be said to be stolen as there were no laws to criminalise hacking or unauthorised interference with computers and receipt of this information.

"But in many countries, the person or persons who hacked my computer would have committed a crime by what they did," he said.

"In any event, my legal right to privacy has been violated. I can't understand the fuss about the article. Like any other citizen, I have a right to freedom of conscience and expression. I am entitled to enjoy those rights because they are in the Constitution," he said.

Perhaps Leung should realize, that everyone's electronic communications are routinely sucked up by global intercepts.
These electronic intercepts are done globally and vacuums up tera bytes of data in the program known as Echelon, which actually makes Leung's unfounded allegations appear dwarfish in comparison.

The super network of electron filters is run by NSA and the organization is perhaps the biggest consumer of resources in all of America's Government agencies.

One thing is for sure, the proposed retroactive immunity for Telecom companies was rejected in the Democratic controlled House, according to a New York Times article. The US President has vowed to veto any legislation that omits Telecom immunity.

An interesting letter appears in the Fiji Times Voice of the People column in response to an earlier Fiji Times article regarding the allegations of local lawyer, Graham Leung.

The excerpt of the Letter:

Biased Report

Your article about Mr Leung's report of military harassment to Radio New Zealand is in itself a patently biased piece of reporting.

Mr Leung's report is just that it is nothing more than a claim, yet you jump from that to report instances of abuse in custody which Mr Leung is not and then go on to refer to the Attorney-General's attempts to pre-empt the publication of inaccurate and possibly contemptuous articles.

There is nothing of substance in the article whatsoever.

Mr Leung does not state what threats were made to him, the Attorney-General does not disclose the nature of the articles he is concerned about. Yet you seem to link all these nebulous events to create a web of political unrest and violence that doesn't exist and which defies logic.

K. Madigan
Hong Kong

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fiji Times -Hoisted By Their Own Petard. (Edited)

The released independent report (PDF) on tax evasion.

"FIJI Times Limited has been ordered to pay interim Cabinet Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi $30,000 in defamation damages for articles and letters to the editor published between 1999 and 2003."

"It is quite clear that the allegations of the Fiji Times are merely that, and covers the spectrum from absurd to ridiculous".

A foregone conclusion

Fiji Times Editorial. Wednesday, March 12, 2008

THE conclusion of the inquiry into interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's tax matters was foregone. Once the terms of reference were made known at the weekend, even a blind person would have been able to see what the three-member team would say in its report.

There was no mention in the terms of reference of the $A1.6million at the center of the tax issue. There was no mention of who provided the money or, indeed, where these mysterious funds may be at this time. Nor was there any attempt to find out how involved a foreign power has been in the internal politics of this sovereign nation.

It is obvious from Mr Chaudhry's bank statements that over $A500,000 was deposited in his account by a Sydney-based consulate general of a foreign government. This government has always decried the attempts of Australia, New Zealand and the United States to influence our affairs.

This time, however, it has been deafeningly silent. More troubling is the fact that this team was chosen, provided a terms of reference and started work without the public being informed that the inquiry would take place. By the time the interim administration announced the team's terms of reference, the report had been prepared and was ready for dissemination.

This is rich, coming from a regime which espouses transparency and accountability. Last week this newspaper approached several members of the administration to seek information on this matter. At no time was any information forthcoming on the issue.

This secrecy does not augur well for the regime or the nation. Neither does the fact that at least one member of the inquiry team has been contracted by the interim Attorney-General to provide tax advice on a project involving the State.

But the exercise has now been exposed for what it was a sham.

Hoisted By Their Own Petard.

The Fiji Times Editorial of March 12th 2008, decrying the independent report into Mahendra Chaudhry's alleged tax evasion is disturbing for many reasons. First and foremost, it has reinforced the concept that the Fiji Times has an unhealthy fascination to tarnish the reputation of the report, in retaliation for the upcoming court trial for defamation of character.

Secondly, it also appears that the Fiji Times has up-changed gears in its smear campaign against the efforts of the Interim Government, stemming from the proposed charter to take Fiji forward, the proposed native land de-reservation project, to this failed mud slinging effort of tax evasion and its recent released independent report.

The Fiji Times (FT) Editorial says:

“Once the terms of reference were made known at the weekend, even a blind person would have been able to see what the three-member team would say in its report”.

It is rather unfortunate that the Fiji Times had used the example of a blind person to launch its tirade of visceral allegations, based on layers of inaccurate and unfair reportage. The choice of metaphors by the Fiji Times reveals the unapologetic stance of the publication, which has now painted itself into a corner and now has resorted to breaking the walls of reason, to escape the wrath of legal proceedings.

If the Fiji Times had published a braille version of its paper, so that the blind people of Fiji could be updated with current affairs, perhaps they would also detect the subtle and underlying bias, punctuated by a litany of factual errors, as well as an embarrassing track record of plagiarism.

The FT Editorial continues its scatter shot of allegations that, spin off the tangent of tax evasion, into wild speculation:

[...]Nor was there any attempt to find out how involved a foreign power has been in the internal politics of this sovereign nation.

It is obvious from Mr Chaudhry's bank statements that over $A500,000 was deposited in his account by a Sydney-based consulate general of a foreign government. This government has always decried the attempts of Australia, New Zealand and the United States to influence our affairs.

If those allegations are true, the Interim Government would not have jurisdiction in taking action against the Sydney based Consulate General and further to that, if the FT has evidence that alleged deposit came with the expectation to disrupt the tranquility of Fiji via violence; then by all means report that the matter to authorities. To fallaciously assert that all donations from Foreign Embassies, also come with expectations to influence internal politics; then most Non-Profit-Organizations in Fiji would be guilty of the sin.

It is quite clear that the allegations of the Fiji Times are merely that, and covers the spectrum from absurd to ridiculous. If foreign intervention was really a concern to the Fiji Times, then the Fiji public should be concerned about the troubling events in 2006 where covert Australian troopers had overtly undermined the sovereignty of Fiji, by avoiding the Immigration Checks at Nadi terminal, in addition to importing undeclared weapons in silver boxes, which is a serious breach of International Law.
News of this was covered by:

The Australian.

Fiji Times article.

SiFM posting : "Of Arms and Men".

SiFM posting: "Aussie- Oi,Oi,Oi".

It was also brow raising that these troopers were whisked away in Fiji Police vehicles, under orders from the Australian Police Chief. Unashamedly, the FT coverage of this gross and willful defiance of International Protocol was poor and the reportage glossed over the severity of the case, in comparison with the obsession into the alleged tax evasion.

Fiji Times Editorial then returns to the tax evasion and in particular the terms of reference:

“More troubling is the fact that this team was chosen, provided a terms of reference and started work without the public being informed that the inquiry would take place".

This marks the high water mark of the lack of FT's impartiality and objectivity.

Although, the Fiji Times Editorial demanded that an independent inquiry take place over the allegations of tax evasion; now the FT is crying foul, simply because they were not privy to the terms of reference.

Since the report had exonerated Mahendra Chaudhry, one would ponder, if the terms of reference would ever be questioned by the Fiji Times, if the result was reversed?

Sadly, the only secrecy that is embarrassing obvious to readers, is the ulterior motive of the Fiji Times, which had launched a similar defamation campaign against the 1999 Coalition Government; and subsequently lost a law suit pertaining to that campaign. Article on defamation case in Fiji Times.

The excerpt:

Times to pay Vayeshnoi

Thursday, November 29, 2007

FIJI Times Limited has been ordered to pay interim Cabinet Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi $30,000 in defamation damages for articles and letters to the editor published between 1999 and 2003.

Mr Vayeshnoi had filed two cases against Fiji Times Limited. The first case filed in 1999 was against then editor Samisoni Kakaivalu, chief sub-editor Netani Rika and Fiji Times Limited.

In the second case filed in 2005, Mr Vayeshnoi filed an action case against Mr Kakaivalu, Mr Rika, then senior reporter Margaret Wise and Fiji Times Limited. There were 12 occasions on which Mr Vayeshnoi alleged he was defamed. He had sought $320,000 in damages but Justice Jiten Singh found he was defamed on five occasions only and awarded him $30,000.

Fiji Times Ltd had argued that all of the publications were fair comment on a public, political figure and protected by freedom of speech in a democratic society.

It also argued that his electoral support had increased and he had risen in parliamentary ranks after the publications, showing that they had not damaged his reputation.

Mr Rika, who is now the Editor/Editor-in-Chief of The Fiji Times, said they would appeal against the ruling. "We believe there are strong grounds for appeal," he said.

Fiji Times articles had tossed 'soft-ball' questions into the actions of SDL Government during its 6 year reign, which had squandered and mis-appropriated state funds as demonstrated in the Agricultural Scam court trials, involving enormous sums of money that, make the sums in the tax evasion look like loose change.

The Ag Scam was addressed in an article from Pacific Islands Report and SiFm posting: "Probing the Deep End".

The FT also did not question how the donation of garden tools and outboard motors procured by the Agricultural slush fund, was a form of vote buying. Neither did the FT ever question or independently research how such vast sums could be used by the convicted mid-level civil servant, without the complicity of the higher echelons of the SDL Government. Nor has the question of how a $F20 million state loan, which was converted to a grant ever been addressed by the FT.

As an old English expression outlines, “You cannot run with hares and hunt with the hounds”.

Undeniably, the only sham and forgone conclusion that has been revealed is the culpability of the Fiji Times in defaming, discrediting and destroying the reputations, character or integrity of people who are trying to move Fiji forward.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fiji TV: Fuzzy & Misleading Reporting.

In the wake of the Russell Hunter story, which some circles in the Fiji media have labeled 'intimidation' or a 'threat to media freedom'. Hunter was interviewed by Radio NZ podcast.

Fiji media should be made aware of the legal precedent in a 1919 US Supreme Court case, Schenck v. United States.

The ruling:

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.

Another side to the media's coverage of the story was lamented in a posting by Oceanic blogger and IT developer, Jonathan Seagal who is subsequently crying foul after being interviewed by Fiji TV. Seagal claims that the interview was sliced and diced to show a different story from what he told.

I received a call yesterday afternoon from a reporter at FijiTV. She wanted to ask me questions about email security as it related to this news story. I answered her questions but then she asked whether they could film me on camera. I told her I wasn't comfortable with that given the current environment but she insisted that this was completely non-political. Stupidly, I relented.

She came over and asked me some initial questions about email security and how someone could gain access to other people's email. I said some things about how people inside a company can have access, how Internet providers can have access, etc...

The conversation then seemed to shift over to these email documents which, if FijiTV is to be believed, were at the center of this deportation story.

Next thing I know, I'm being asked about these documents and if they were genuine.

Of course, I had no idea if they were genuine at all and said that repeatedly. The reporter asked questions like "but its certainly possible these printed emails were fabricated, right?" The way it was presented on air though is demonstrated below [posted youtube video]:

"Segal SAYS they could be fabricated." is really quite different from "Segal AGREED they could be fabricated." The latter alludes to someone else coming up with that ridiculous notion.

I've experienced this before with FijiTV. Yeah, I know I'm the one who opened my mouth at the end of the day. I've been quoted before in print many times and never run into the kind of editing FijiTV tends to do.

Rizwan Dean, another blogger with IT background, whose latest posting lashes out at Fiji TV for their shameful editing process as well using other respected people as a proxy for their gutter reporting. Rizwan further lampoons the 5 day turn around for addressing complaints, in a lame response from Fiji TV CEO Mesake Nawari to Seagal.

I've noticed that whenever FijiTV wants to air something controversial which they know will land them in hot water, they get other people to do it so they can shift the blame.

Its a little sad that they used an unsuspecting IT Professional to do their dirty work and then twisted his professional opinion and almost made it sound like a political one. This is fairly common with the rest of the media industry in Fiji and it perhaps explains why people really don't believe anything thats published these days or are just tired of reading[...]
Fiji's media are always harping on about media freedom and the right of the press to report what they feel is important - perhaps they need to realize that media freedom is not simply about reporting rubbish and forgetting the real issues and the true side of a story.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Drive By Journalism - A Case in Fiji.

The recent deportation of Fiji Sun's publisher, Russell Hunter was covered in a posting in David Robie's blog Cafe Pacific.
A prequel to the media's relationship with the state was summed up in a factual expose published by RMIT's 'The Fifth Estate' written by Crystal Ja.

Entrenched pundits have labeled this as a crackdown on media freedom. However, a previous SiFM posting "Fiji Media and Ethical Deviations" identifies a similar track record of slantness.

David Robie's take on the Fiji Time's role in pre-2000 coup had said
"The Fiji Times, [...] raged a relentless campaign against the Chaudhry government not long after its election in 1999. In spite of its claims to the contrary, that [Fiji Times] treated all governments of the day similarly, the newspaper was blatantly agnostic," Robie claimed, adding that the "newspaper's reporting was spearheaded by a journalist with close ties with opposition indigenous nationalists."

The journalist identified by Robie, as spearheading the 'agnostic' perception could be no one other than former Fiji Times Editor, Samisoni Kakaivalu; who now is employed by Fiji Sun.

It certainly not surprising that Fiji Sun's publisher, Russell Hunter had re-united with Kakaivalu at Fiji Sun (both formerly employed by Fiji Times) and coalesced their ulterior motives into syndicated opinions, the corner stone of"drive-by journalism". Fiji Sun with the dubious duo at the helm had released the tax records of Interim Finance Minster, Mahendra Chaudhry according to an article published by "The Australian". Both Hunter and Kakaivalu had conspired in a similar scenario demonstrated in the Fiji Times coverage of Chaudhry soon after his water-shed election win in 1999.

"The Fiji Times, the country's largest daily newspaper and the only foreign-owned one, has apologised over a business "fat cats" story in its long-running dispute with Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry over media accuracy and professionalism. "

Fiji Media Council's Chairman, Daryl Tarte defended the media and stated in a Fiji Times article that "The media's task in any society is to reflect the opinion of the people of the nation, said Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte".

Indeed, Tarte's defense of the media cartel was predictable, however the comments begged the question of whether the opinion of the nation was accurately documented and also does that opinion come before or after the media's reflection. In a nutshell, which comes first "the media reflection" or "the nation's opinion"?

Despite the Fiji Times editorial of Weds. Feb 27th 2008, which deplored the deportation of Fiji Sun's publisher, Russell Hunter; was the Fiji Times equally, less or more deplored when the Fiji TV news studio was ransacked in post 2000 coup, covered by an article by International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)website.

The excerpt of the FT editorial:

We are no threat

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

THE deportation of Fiji Sun Publisher Russel Hunter as a security risk to this nation is deplorable.

And his treatment as a human being was reprehensible. Taken from his home under the cover of darkness, he was driven to Nadi without being given time to change or say a word of farewell to his wife Martha and their daughters.

His cell phone removed, Mr Hunter was placed on a flight to Australia with but $20 in his pocket. To add salt to the wound, he was made to stand with his face to the wall in the Nadi International Airport, watched by officials who claimed to be Immigration Department officers. Of course, hundreds of tourists and airport staff witnessed this indignation. Even convicted fraudster Peter Foster was treated better than Mr Hunter.

Is this how low we have stooped as a nation, that someone accused of committing a crime against the State is not even treated with basic dignity?

And has justice been removed to the extent that officials refused to acknowledge a High Court injunction stopping the Immigration Department from deporting the Australian national?

Since when have our citizens or indeed visitors to this country been bundled away at night without the right to defend themselves before a magistrate or judge.

In removing the publisher of a newspaper, and given the tone of the interim Prime Minister in his attack on the press corps on Sunday, it is safe to assume this is an act of intimidation.

The Police Commissioner joined the fray on Monday, warning those who continued to speak out against the regime could face charges of incitement. These statements contradict Commodore Bainimaramas reassurances in the past, and again yesterday, that his administration will uphold media freedom.

A truly democratic Fiji can only come about by allowing the people to make their views known through a free, vibrant media. By stifling debate, no government will ever have a true reading of the political temperature of the nation.

The media raises the concerns of the people and points the government towards their concerns and the issues they want addressed.

Neither this newspaper, nor any media organisation in this country wants to run the nation. We merely have the nation at heart and bring together the beliefs of the government, its supporters and detractors, for all to see.

Today, we echo the words of Kenyan publisher George Githii: For governments which fear newspapers, there is one consolation: We have known many instances when governments have taken over newspapers, but we have not known a single newspaper which has taken over a government.

Although, Fiji Times Editorial hides behind the veneer of Githii's words "[...]we have not known a single newspaper which has taken over a government" which is correct in the literal context. However, a newspaper may facilitate over taking a government by preying on stimuli that can agitate a population, as seen in the recent Fiji Times coverage of the Krishnamurthi proposal for de-reserving native land.

Fiji Times coverage of Mahendra Chaudhary after his 1999 election, has been far from from impartial or objective according to Pacific Media Watch (PMW)article.

The excerpt of PMW article:


SUVA, Fiji Islands (PMW): The Fiji Times, the country's oldest and major daily newspaper, has accused the Government of "conducting a vendetta" against it following a bitter personal attack in Parliament against its acting editor and two journalists.

On 24 November 1999, a parliamentary backbencher from the ruling Fiji Labour Party, Muthu Swamy, made allegations in the House of Representatives over the personal and professional integrity of the three journalists.

"The Fiji Times often talks about the conduct of politicians and civil servants but not about its own staff," Swamy said, according to the newspaper's full page coverage of the affair on Nov 25.

Taking advantage of parliamentary privilege, Swamy took a long-running Government attack on the Fiji news media to a new level by citing the three local journalists:

# Political reporter Margaret Wise - who has been previously accused by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry of anti-government bias in her reporting - for being "charged with [being] drunk and disorderly and locked up in a police cell for 11 and a half hours".

# Reporter Matelita Ragogo for being "arrested and charged by police for drunk and disorderly behaviour".

# Acting editor Netani Rika - known for a trenchant weekly satirical column about politics and politicians - for alleged "involvement in the embezzlement of funds" at a local branch of an international bank.

Swamy also showed pictures in Parliament of Wise sleeping in a shared hotel room with a male colleague at a media convention in Vanuatu in 1996. A separate news story in the Fiji Times reported allegations that the photographs had been stolen from the flat of Hemant Vimal Sharma, editor of Shanti Dut, a Hindi-language sister newspaper to the Times.

Sharma's flatmate, Assistant Information Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, reportedly also denied possession of the photographs.

Another daily, the Fiji Sun, in an editorial on Nov 25 condemned the use of Parliament as a "battle ground" instead of a debating chamber in the attack on individual journalists.

"The Government and the media have been at loggerheads for some time now," the paper said.

"Both sides are invoking privileges - the Government its parliamentary right and the media its freedom of speech licence.

"It is a question of rights. Is it not also a question of responsibilities and duties?"

Alan Robinson, publisher of the Fiji Times, owned by the Rupert Murdoch News Ltd group, was quoted by his newspaper as describing the remarks in Parliament as a disgrace to the House and to Fiji.

Robinson challenged Swamy to repeat his claims outside Parliament where he did not have legal protection from prosecution. "We can stand his attack on the Fiji Times, baseless though it is. But when he uses his position to attack individuals, it is time to draw the line," [Robinson] said.

"We challenge Mr Swamy to repeat his disgusting attack without hiding behind the skirts of parliamentary privilege. It should now be clear to all that the Government, its ministers and backbenchers are conducting a vendetta against the Fiji Times. We'd like to know why."

In an editorial headlined "Only a coward will hide", the Fiji Times claimed Swamy had "savagely abused the ancient (and very necessary) privilege of Parliament to attack three individual journalists".

The paper confirmed that reporter Ragogo had been charged with being drunk and disorderly, but said the charge had been withdrawn; political reporter Wise "after being harassed by a taxi driver" had been charged with damage of his vehicle not with being drunk and disorderly; and added that Swamy "cannot support [the embezzlement] allegation" against Rika.

"This newspaper will continue to cover the news as best it can - without hiding behind the protection of any legal privileges," the Fiji Times said.

"As for Mr Swamy and his faceless manipulators, we now publicly challenge them to repeat those allegations outside Parliament and face the consequences - or withdraw and apologise. To do otherwise will be the act of a coward."

A second article published in 2000 by PMW regarding the Fiji Times slanted coverage.

The excerpt:

SUVA, Fiji Islands (PMW): The Fiji Times, the country's largest daily newspaper and the only foreign-owned one, has apologised over a business "fat cats" story in its long-running dispute with Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry over media accuracy and professionalism.

In a report on 18 January 2000, the newspaper cited the front page story published the previous day headlined Share wealth, PM warns businesses", which quoted Chaudhry as saying: "The fat cats must learn to share".

Commenting in an editorial headlined "Why Robin Hood won't do", the Fiji Times attacked the prime minister over the corpulent fat cats statement, saying:

"Mr Chaudhry appears to view the problem in terms of profit versus poverty. It's a 1950s view of the world that has in the past spawned government policies in many countries that aimed to alleviate poverty.

"All of them ultimately failed. Hammering the private sector will not assist the poor."

But on Jan 18, the newspaper admitted that Chaudhry did not use those words: "The fat cats must learn to share".

"The phrase was intended to sum up his overall message and the quotation marks were mistakenly added during the sub-editing process," the paper explained.

"The Fiji Times regrets and apologises for the error."

In its news report, the Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd-owned newspaper said: "The Government has hit out at the Fiji Times report of Prime Minister Chaudhry's speech to the business community last week.

"The Ministry for Information said the Fiji Times front page report quoting the prime minister as describing the businessmen as fat cats who must learn to share was a fabrication.

"'This is the sort of irresponsible journalism that the Government has been complaining about. Mr Chaudhry did not make a generalised statement accusing the business community of wallowing in wealth.'

"The statement said that this was part of what Mr Chaudhry actually said:

"'I want to underscore [World Bank director] Mr [James] Wolfensohn's social message to those in the business sector who decry every move to help the poor, to help more people earn a decent livelihood for themselves.

"'These are people who already have plenty, they are wallowing in wealth and yet they begrudge a slight decline in their projects so others may live decent lives and eat two meals a day."'

In Chaudhry's original speech, he highlighted that more than 70 per cent of the national wealth in the Fiji Islands was concentrated in the hands of just 10 per cent of the population.

In recent months, the Fiji Times and the Government have been engaged in a war of words. Prime Minister Chaudhry and some ministers have accused the newspaper of lack of professionalism and of being biased against the Fiji Labour Party-led coalition Government while the newspaper has in turn accused the government of waging a vendetta against it.

The Fiji Times is currently seeking a judicial review of a Government decision to bar renewal of the work permit of the paper's editor-in-chief Russell Hunter, a Scottish-born career journalist in the Murdoch publishing group.

# In a letter to Pacific Media Watch (Jan 21), Fiji Times editor-in-chief Russell Hunter said he was "baffled" over the PMW report over the "fat cats" quote affair. His letter said:

Firstly The Fiji Times absolutely did not apologise for the "fat cats" story. We apologised for presenting a paraphrased report as a direct quote. We have no intention of apologising for the story and haven't been asked to.

Secondly, our editorial did not attack the PM over any "corpulent fats cats story" as you report. It did not do so for the very simple reason that the editorial was written in the full knowledge that Mr Chaudhry did not use those words. As was publicly explained, the quote marks were added in error.

In fact, the editorial stated that even the most corpulent of fat cats would agree with the PM's position.

Secondly (sic), you proceed to give great space to the Ministry of Information's statement without revealing to your readers that we published it, or that we published the apology and correction without being asked to.

Your highly selective quotation from our editorial gives, to put it mildly, a distorted view of what was actually said, while quoting (almost) in full the ministry's response.

That's a pity as many people outside the region depend on PMW for a balanced view of what's going on. They certainly didn't get that from this story.

Lastly, if being a News Ltd employee for six years of my 31 in this industry makes me "a career journalist in the Murdoch publishing group" that's fine by me. Others might differ.

# Pacific Media Watch's reply:

We are quite satisfied that this is a balanced and accurate report, and has indeed been parallelled by other news sources quite independently (see Prime Minister gets apology and other links above).

Our report made it clear that the apology was over the phrase referring to "fat cats" and we quoted extensively from the Fiji Times newspaper's own two reports (page 3, Jan 18) as indicated in the sourcing and attribution. The Fiji Times' error was fundamental to the original front page story on Jan 17. We identified the Ministry of Information statement as such and stated that it was being quoted by the Fiji Times. What we published of the statement was in the context of the ongoing media controversy in Fiji.

Also, the Fiji Times' own website, maintained by Fiji Village, did not publish the denial by the Fiji government, or the paper's apology, in its Jan 18 online edition (as had been published in the print edition), even though the original "fat cats" report was published on line the previous day. An unfortunate omission.

# On January 30, Fiji's Sunday Post reported that Chaudhry was suing Fiji Times publisher Alan Robinson, editor Samisoni Kakaivalu and reporter Seema Sharma for alleged defamation over the "fat cats" story.

30 January 2000

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