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Times Gets It Wrong

Times Gets It Wrong
September 05
10:45 2018

The Fiji Times’ inability to be factual in its reporting has once again been highlighted by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

In a strongly worded statement released yesterday, the Acting Prime Minister said it was sad to see the newspaper celebrate their 149th anniversary by playing loose with the facts and giving voice to outright lies.

And, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also pointed out that the paper hit a new low under what he called the Motibhai Group’s eight years of politically-driven administration.

In particular he pointed out the newspaper’s coverage yesterday where he was falsely quoted as saying that school heads do not need modern skills like school management and computer literacy to be effective.

In fact, his  circular to Fijian teachers said the exact opposite before going on to say that free training for these essential skills would be provided by the Ministry.

In a separate article, the paper also ran a quote from a clearly-unnerved union boss who claimed the circular “attacked” the unions, suggesting that the information in the circular was given to only one news source.

“The Fiji Times knows that these statements are flatly false. As I made clear in the circular, which was sent to 9683 teachers along with all Fijian media over the weekend, my problem is not with the unions themselves –– it is with the misinformation being spread by their selfish, out-of-touch, and politically-motivated bosses,” the A-G said.

“Let me again be clear! Unions, when led with thoughtful purpose, can play a useful and productive role in employer and employee relationships. But that can’t happen when they’re headed by those more interested in basking in the limelight and keeping us stuck in a system that served their own interests, rather than the interests of the teachers they are meant to serve.

“The Fiji Times has proven that it’s either sloppy, driven by an agenda, or like the union bosses, wilfully trying to mislead the public. Tuesday’s coverage only scratches the surface of the type of misinformation being spread. The Fijian people, and our teachers, deserve an open and honest conversation that is based on the truth. For this to happen, the Fiji Times needs to operate as any truly responsible and independent news ogranisation should – by reporting the news, not reporting to a hidden political agenda. This will require them to check the facts, and not let unfounded claims and flat lies go unchallenged.”

Several phone calls made to him following up on his response after the email was sent were not answered.

This is not the first instance when the newspaper has come under the spotlight for misquoting senior Government officials, more so over the last eight years.

This has also not been the first time that false information published in the newspaper has been called out by people.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said teachers with listed email addresses have already received the circular, and this direct and transparent line of communication has already proven to be effective.

“That’s why we are working with Government ITC to allocate an official GOVNET email address to every Fijian teacher, widely opening their correspondence with the Ministry. We fully acknowledge that the Ministry of Education has had issues with reaching and servicing our teachers in the past, and that there are still administrative matters, in particular within the human resources department and the district education offices, that need to be addressed and dramatically improved; this is why we are instituting reforms in the first place,” the A-G said.

“With these improvements, we will work more personally with our teachers, collaborating together to empower and reward them –– bringing Fijian education and the teaching profession into a new era of fairness, accountability and transparency.

“For now, I encourage all teachers to read the circular for themselves. Going forward, I encourage all Fijians to look at any claims and media coverage with a critical eye, raise questions, and demand the truth.”    

Fiji Times Editor Fred Wesley admitted the error and said: “We reported him saying that school heads did not need modern skills like management and computer literacy. We should have reported him saying the opposite. That was our mistake. We acknowledge it and we regret it.

“The rest of the statement is six paragraphs of personal attacks on this newspaper, its owners (who have nothing to do with the debate) and trade unionists who disagree with the reforms he is
promoting.

“Education is a critical issue for policymakers, educators, students and families. So there will always be debate on any proposed reforms.  Sometimes the reformers may be proven right; other times they will not. Sometimes debate will bring out a better solution on which both sides can agree.

“The Attorney-General says that his reforms are the right thing to do.  He has the right to believe this. But if teachers and unions disagree with him, we believe they also have the right to their views.

“The education of our children is important to all of us.  The Fiji Times will continue to publish the views of all sides in the debate.

“It will give priority to the issues in the debate, not personal attacks on the participants,” Mr Wesley added.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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