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Editorial: NFP Contradictory And Hypocritical In Its Position On Media Freedom

Editorial: NFP Contradictory And Hypocritical In Its Position On Media Freedom
July 27
12:01 2018

Barring the media from covering political rallies and pocket meetings leading up to this year’s general election is not only old-fashioned but completely out of touch with modern trends.

As media practitioners, our role is basically to help voters make informed decisions. Voters need to know:

  • who are competing for power
  • what political parties are telling people
  • candidates’ promises and incumbents’ record
  • the transparency and oversight of the electoral process

We also understand that political parties have their media policies regarding their do’s and don’ts about handling the media. But when they start chasing journalists out of pocket meetings – this has got to be the new low.

In fact, it’s ironic that the oldest political party in Fiji has now stooped to such a low level while at the same time it’s calling for a ‘free press’.

On Wednesday night at a National Federation Party pocket meeting at Vuci Road in Nausori, one of our journalists, Ashna Kumar, was barred from attending.

She was told by a party member that it was a private meeting.  However, a big party banner hung outside the property inviting members of the public.

Invitations were also sent out to residents prior to the meeting announcing that party leader Biman Prasad would be speaking.

NFP has always been vocal about its distaste for the Fiji Sun along with a number of other media outlets.

With its 2018 election slogan ‘Change is Coming’, perhaps NFP should seriously consider ‘changing’ its tactics now and not later when it comes to dealing with the media.

It must practise what it preaches if it is to be believed like the NFP was in its once great heyday. When it bars reporters from its meetings it indicates that it has something to hide. It is not a good look for a party that professes to champion media freedom.

But NFP is not the only culprit here.  Media practitioners have shared their stories of similar run-ins with some of the other registered political parties.

Given the small, competitive environment we work in, word does quickly get around.

Smart politicians would reach out to the media and use their platforms to get their message to the voters – particularly if they are in opposition – not ban them from attending pocket meetings and rallies.

Here is a case in point – earlier this month at the SODELPA headquarters, one of our journalists was told several times by a party worker to leave the premises.

He said the party leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, was busy and would not speak with her. For close to 45 minutes, our journalist waited.  Mr Rabuka saw her and called her in for an interview. Now that’s a politician who understands the media and knows how to deal with them.

The NFP and other Opposition parties cannot afford to shut out the media from their meetings and rallies. They need the media to tell the masses what they will do if they become government.

This is because there is a huge gap between them and the FijiFirst Government.

No one is going to believe people like the NFP if they talk about media freedom on one hand but shut out the media on the other hand. It is contradictory and hypocritical.

Feedback:  rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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