Fiji needs own media model

Thakur Ranjit Singh Auckland, New Zealand Bruce Hill of Radio Australia (RA) must be laughing all the way to a RA microphone, tapping happily all the way to a RA
10 May 2012 09:53

Thakur Ranjit Singh
Auckland, New Zealand

Bruce Hill of Radio Australia (RA) must be laughing all the way to a RA microphone, tapping happily all the way to a RA laptop and patting on his back for the success of “conflict journalism” model in Fiji that Australia and some media educators want imposed on Fiji.
The scrap and media wars that did not eventuate in PINA conference is taking place now, a month after the event. That is the power of conflict journalism that has been sinking democracies embroiled in conflicts in Third World Countries.
It is indeed an honour to be officiously marked yet again despite gaining Masters in Communication Studies with Honours. Dr Mark Edge questions the “scholarliness” of my research.
Similarly one can question the credibility of his doctoral thesis, because as an academic, an educator and an examiner, he must know that two examiners examining the same thesis can come with completely separate results. Therefore to be judged that my thesis was not a scholarly enough would not have me lose any sleep as I am not an academic out for another feather in my cap or pleasing my superiors.
Dr Edge vehemently maintains that development journalism has no place in Fiji. I wonder what he knows about this subject. He supports a supposedly free media despite, I suppose, knowing that this has caused havoc in Fiji.
He has never experienced the coup and racial hatred of 1987. He has not experienced Sunday bans and roadblocks to enforce this hypocrisy. Neither has he any appreciation of hatred preached from the pulpits of some Methodist Churches.
He has no experience of sitting in the Toorak Road office of the Daily Post in 2000 and listening to the breaking glass and advancing crowd of looters who were burning Suva City. He has never made that call to the military camp for help and was told that they could not intervene until requested by police.
He does not know that the then Commissioner of Police was missing in action on that fateful day despite warning the Government that a march may end up in trouble. Neither does he know that police on  May 19, 2000 did not have an operation order in place.
He does not know that the same Commissioner of Police was cleared of any wrongdoing by a former chief justice in a court held in camera. And when my paper, Fiji’s Daily Post called that decision a fraud on the nation, I was sacked by the interim Qarase government from the Daily Post when I rightfully refused to apologise for the truth I had spoken.
That is the Fiji Marc Edge does not know about.
He is critical of the Singapore model of government which he says has one party ruling for fifty years. That is nothing new in the Pacific.
If we wait long enough, Fiji’s most ardent critics, Samoa would join them. Since 1990, it has only one government and two prime ministers, with virtually a one party system. Fiji since 1970 to 1987 had only one government and one Prime Minster and may have been so for three decades had Fijian voters not decided to leave the chiefly Alliance party. In 1987, Fiji failed the ultimate test for democracy – to survive a change of government.
Marc fails to tell that as an Asian tiger, Singapore is like a Europe in Asia, thriving economically, with low crime rate, a country equivalent to OECD First World, kept in control by a managed media.
What has Fiji got to show for its free media since independence? I have been critical of Fiji’s oldest paper, established in 1869, for some three decades. Not until it was bought by Motibhai’s in 2010 did any prospect of a publisher’s position came about.
So how can Edge accuse me of my outrage against the Fiji Times being clouded by not being offered a position? When I did my research in 2009, it was still owned by Murdoch and there was never any question of a publisher’s position.
Where and why the outrage? Never have I mentioned that I aspired for that position, so no sour grapes. Subsequent to 2010 ownership changeover, my friend Fred Wesley has been doing a fine job and I have no criticism of him or his leadership.
Dr Edge feels that the development journalism model would not be the best one for Fiji and hence he would prefer to see a free press to shine a light on powerful groups and people in society and thus help guard against corruption.
Very well said, Doctor, where was that supposedly free First World media when Fijian Holdings saga was played in Fiji Senate in 1993 when the elite Fijian hoodwinked their provinces? Where was the free press when Qarase’s SDL party initiated their Duavata Holdings, the business arm of a government party?
Where was the free press when SDL government bought votes masquerading under affirmative action?  Where was the free press when Qarase failed to renew the work permit of an expatriate deputy Director of Prosecutions who was close on the scent of associates of Speight and coup plotters?
Where was the free press when Qarase appointed a once disbarred lawyer as the head of his government’s chief legal advisor? Where was the free press when a deputy minister was rewarded with full ministerial position within months of confessing sedition on national TV?
Marc should know all about this because he is supposed to have read my thesis which has all these accounts of a failed free First World media in Fiji. Does he still feel we need that failed media model to root out corruption?
Today’s situation in Fiji, to a large extent, is because of that dereliction of duty of the so called First World free media Marc wishes Fiji to adopt. The USP journalism school certainly needs a head who appreciates these historical facts, and who is flexible to test alternative local home-grown media models suitable for us.
I am not an academic, neither have I a PhD, nor somebody who has taught in various universities.  But I am rooted in Fiji, have intimately and directly experienced its trials and tribulations with democracy and media, feel passionately for my country, and still maintain its citizenship despite being away for so many years.
I ventured to do a study, judged however flawed, to fill an information vacuum on the possible failings of the leading and influential Fiji media. I now humbly request government agencies, journalism schools, its students and interested stakeholders to call a conference to brainstorm a suitable model for Fiji and adopt the best options available from Third World experiences.
You need not be a rocket scientist or a doctor to appreciate that the past First World media models have failed Fiji. The silent Veiuto parliament building for many years, and a slight dent in the smooth parliamentary grounds indicating a rebel’s dug up grave, are resounding proof of that.
Go ahead Dr Mark Edge, make my day, and say that your failed model of conflict journalism is no longer suitable for Fiji.

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