Letters April 11, 2015

Mobile phones Atul Deo, Suva Just a thought,  if students are not allowed to take phones into school then the same should be for the teachers. Rules and regulations should
11 Apr 2015 11:38
Letters April 11, 2015

Mobile phones

Atul Deo, Suva

Just a thought,  if students are not allowed to take phones into school then the same should be for the teachers.

Rules and regulations should be followed by teachers and followed by students.

This is what the Ministry of Education should look into.

The rules should be the same for everyone from the principal,  teachers and students.

Public consultation

Neelz Singh,  Lami

I wish to call upon Fiji Police Force to hold some public consultations around Fiji so we can know how some matters are being handled within their force. A forum where the public can ask some basic simple questions to our public service officers

So, reader, what you think? It’s time we can see and know or meet our top police officers.

Sugar industry

Sanjay Kumar, Tamavua, Suva

It seems inevitable that the sugar industry will succumb to its knees due to many reasons.

The problem was aggravated, firstly, because land leases were not renewed.

The core single factor saw political parties not reaching a practical consensus. A matter of emergency was dealt purely on political survival of the ruling party rather than the economical well being of Fiji as a whole and the directly dependants.

As days passed by the farmers saw greener pastures in the city and towns and wanted to rid themselves from the hangover of continuous harassment by the land owners and the exorbitant demands of good will.

There were two losses simultaneously. one the farmers and second the mushrooming of squatters in Fiji. Now this has become a burden again on tax payers relocating them. Many of these squatters had decent homes.

Their relocation has a tremendous and rippling effect on Fiji as whole because no amount of money or begging will lure this people back.

The impending overcast of expiry of preferential pricing coming to an end and the fluctuation in cane payments has added salt to the wound.

It would be  a miracle if farmers will opt for sugar industry if alternatives are there other than land.

The focus of the government should be totally stretched with aggression as the top priority in resurrect ing our sugar industry because the neediest will remain and others will progressively shy away from the things they do the best.

Termite issue

Kirti Patel, Lautoka

Certain areas in Lautoka including my house gets affected when the mad race of termite begins.

On behalf of some people, I am raising my concerns and worries for this issue.

Someone called in the officers at their venue for this termite issue, however it’s noticed, not much man power is available at the Lautoka Bio-security office and in times of need they can’t be everywhere and anywhere.

The termites destroy the houses so badly and the poor people suffer the most.

They neither have the proper transport nor enough finance for the termite chemical which, according to some, is very costly.

All of a sudden, sudden actions or reactions from the right people turns out to be futile in this scenario.

Obviously, people follow the protocols such as turning the lights off and lightning of fires to drive the termites away.

How about making available these chemicals to the chemical shops with reasonable prices so it becomes easily accessible especially for the people in remote areas and the poor people.

Easy access and reasonable price will be like a blessing for all those getting affected of this nightmare called termites.

I just hope the authorities give this some serious thought.

Elite schools

Amenatave Yaconisau, Delainavesi

The allegation of elitisim by the Minister for Education levelled at Government boarding schools (FS 9/4/15) is a breach of respect and good work practices.

These schools have contributed a lot to the development of Fiji.

This country is watching  the removal of laws taking away the choice of parents  to send their children to schools of their liking  based on freewill and merit.

This act goes against section 16 of the 2013 Constitution that guarantees administrative  and executive justice.

He should seek first  the opinion of parents of current students and old boys association to see for himself  if there are irreconciliable  social chasms and alleged elitism.

Elitism is a model of politics that suggests a small group of people exercising disproportionate  influence  on the making of public policy.

Also, check with the  PTA and Old Boys if they object to their children  mixing with maritime rural children with lower exam pass rates.  Check if they regard them as of different social element than them.

To make unfounded allegation of elitism will only attract public outcry, rather than creating a just and equal social order.

Caubati lights

Roneel Chand, Caubati, Suva

Some streetlights in Caubati have not been operational for the past 5 months or so.

Some lights on the other hand are switched on day and night again for the past so many months.

Numerous calls to the current authorities fails to produce any action.

We were better off when Nasinu Town Council was in charge of this it seems.

Junk foods

Savenaca Vakaliwaliwa, Samabula

How many Fijians watching the live sevens from Hong Kong and Tokyo on TV noticed the continued bombardment of the viewers minds (including children) with the different snacks being advertised?

I believe it was last year that we heard from the Ministry of Health that no more junk foods will be advertised on TV, but I guess that was just wishful thinking.

We are told that more Fijians currently die from non- communicable diseases today and if we continue to brainwash our children with unhealthy snacks, or continue to feed them the same, our current statistics on national NCD’s death will escalate into the future.

Companies and producers of junk foods and snacks have every right to brainwash people to get them to buy their products but this should be equally combatted by parents in walking the talk by eating and snacking on nutritious healthy foods to maintain good health.

A health conscious parent will be a role model for their children; who will not be swayed by the brainwashing techniques in TV advertising.

Maximum demand

Sukha Singh, Labasa

Vanua Levu’s maximum demand is around 10 megawatts.

If the Government can install a baggase drier similar to the plywood veneer drier and run the FSC steam plant (boiler) 24 hours a day, everyone on Vanua Levu can have the cheapest power and the Government won’t have to spend anything for Vanua Levu.

I would be very grateful if the FEA and FSC engineers let us know why they not making use of the equipment and fuel available.

I hope the Minister of Energy comes to Labasa and finds out what the actual problem is.

Watching Ba

Floyd Robinson, Nasinu

With  the Japan and Hong Kong Sevens Rugby  Tournaments over,  looking forward  to some entertaining soccer  during the Fiji Airways OFC Champions League Champions.  Will be closely watching the  Ba Side in action.

Defamation and social media

Dr Sushil Sharma, Lautoka

Internet and mobile telephony technological revolution in the last two decades, in leaps and bounds, has changed the world completely today.

Compared to what our forefathers knew of this world and the way they communicated and did business, we today are a totally different breed of people. With a click of a mouse, or touch on our smart phones, we buy or sell products, send and receive information, and on a 24/7 basis are in fact connected to the world.

Technological revolution of this phenomenal pace was only experienced probably in the past, just after the invention of the wheel, the car engine, telephone, penicillin, the ability of the plane to fly and outer space exploration.

The internet and the mobile telephony developments have reached a point now, where technological progress is being made at consolidation of the many of the disparate and stand alone technological developments in these fields at the early stages.

This is now bringing about power, control, comfort, ease, and globalization of people’s ability to interact with anyone in the world in a real time 24-hour, 7-day basis, throughout the year, right from the palm of their hands.

The international community can now connect instantly to each other. This applies to either verbal communication or an ability to instantly do transactions, publish photos or text, add or delete content digitally on electronic message boards, electronic mail, text messages, and access and manipulate, internet pages like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and the like.

Smart phones in one’s hand, connects people to the world instantly at a touch of the pad, without even the need to even visit one’s desktop computer, an internet café nor the work place.

The majority of people in Fiji, who frequently publish content on Facebook, Twitter, blog sites, Instagram and YouTube are often laymen, students, businessmen and women, academics and public figures, who would not necessarily have had to deal with issues of defamation previously.

Their publishing experience before their exposure to the electronic digital virtual world and age of the social media would have been limited to the print media –if any at all. This alone would have given them a false sense of security, as the newspapers often do a very good job in moderating the contributions, weeding out defamatory material with utter professionalism.

Newspapers often make an informed decision and when in doubt their lawyers often also provide legal advice, before contributions may be approved for publication.

This matter never seems to have been an issue to most people, who for example may have been contributing to the “Letters to the Editor”, “Feature”, and “Opinion” columns, for example.

Often material not published, may not be due to the newspaper not interested in the submission. Probably one of the reasons could be that the article may have been rejected, as it was deemed to be defamatory and its publication could lead to legal action with costs and damages requested from both the contributor and the newspaper publisher alike, through the courts.

This would include claims for all legal costs and damages, and would normally be a very substantial amount.

Thus most people not familiar with the legal principles of defamation in the print media would be ideal candidates to quickly fall in the trap today, with the rise of social media, where it is much easier to make a defamatory statement, in the blink of an eye. That is because social media services like Facebook, Twitter and Blogs allow you to instantly “publish” without any checking of content and without a cooling-off period and neither with the benefit of someone moderating content, nor giving editorial advice, as the case may be from a newspaper publisher.

Defamatory content thus can reach thousands of people, and if it goes viral, many millions of people within minutes and hours. Defamation via the digital social media or the traditional print media of newspapers, handouts, and magazines is treated the same way, without even the need to amend the present defamation legislations, as was clearly evidenced in the Australian and English jurisdictions, in a few ground breaking cases recently.

This clearly means that you can be sued for any defamatory statements you post online, either on your own private page or someone else’s page. The person who lets defamatory content, written by you, sit on their site, are also fully liable for costs and damages. In the Australian and English examples, where a number of prosecutions have been successfully undertaken by the expansion of the present definition of defamation, cases prosecuted have clearly established that defamation already extends to the internet within the present Australian and the English legal systems.

Thus, any apathy on the part of users of social media; thinking that since they have not cited new legislations in Fiji covering aspects of the social media specifically, and thus continuing to defame others, are in fact fully liable for prosecution using the existing laws.

Fiji’s legal system and that of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in areas of common law are similar, and it is appears that the courts in Fiji will also use as a guide precedents of recent judgments of the Australian and the United Kingdom Courts, who already have had the opportunity to deal with cases of social media defamation recently, for the first time, in their legal history.

This should be a wakeup call for anyone using social media to be careful about what they post. A split second decision to share information through social media could be very expensive. Social media is no different to other forms of publishing in terms of defamation, and the fact that social media can assist broadcasting it further, adds further risks for aggravated damages.

When posting on Facebook or Twitter, take the newspaper test – think of yourself as an editor of a newspaper or media outlet, because you will be just as liable if you defame someone.

Defamation covers any statement that hurts someone’s reputation. If it is made in writing and published, the defamation is called “libel” as opposed to “slander” when the hurtful statement is spoken.

The state cannot send anyone to jail for making a defamatory statement, since it is not a crime. Defamation is instead, considered to be a civil wrong, where the person who has suffered a defamatory statement may sue the person that made the statement under defamation law.

Defamation law needs to walk a fine line and balance between the right to freedom of speech and the right of a person to avoid defamation.

On the one hand we need to be able to freely talk about our experiences in a truthful manner without fear of a lawsuit, anything mean, but true. On the other hand people have a right to not have false statements made that will damage their reputation. Discourse is essential to a free society, and the more open and honest the discourse, the better for society.

In defamation cases, essentially the plaintiff needs to show that someone made a statement, that the statement was published, the statement caused injury, the statement was false, and that the statement did not fall into a privileged category.

Defamation occurs when a person intentionally spreads information about another person, group or company, who damages their reputation or makes others think less of them. This can also be in any form of ridicule but does not cover where truth is involved.

Regardless of the medium of expression –internet, mobile phones, radio, print — defamation is actionable, regardless. A person can be defamed by what one writes about him or her on Facebook, Twitter, through photos posted online, or anything else that would constitute defamation, in the print media, like your daily newspaper.

Though defamation via cases involving the internet and social media, are relatively new, and no prosecutions have been done through our Courts in Fiji, the same principles would apply as established clearly by the Australian and English jurisdictions recently. People who go online should also note carefully that a person who did not create the defamatory material is also fully liable for damages, for sharing, “re-tweeting” a tweet, or even keeping it on their electronic message board.

Consequently, you may be liable for defamation if you spread information which constitutes a hurtful and untrue statement of fact about another person.

Truth or statements which were an expression of honestly held beliefs or an opinion can be used as a legitimate defence to defamation.

Internet users whilst online, making statements, have to keep in mind that it is defamatory to state that someone is corrupt, dishonest or disloyal or to state that someone is suspected of committing or alleged to have committed an illegal act.

Further users need not ridicule anyone, state that someone has a contagious disease, suffering from insanity, or say anything that is likely to cause the person to be avoided or shunned, even if there is no suggestion of bad character.

Australia’s first social media defamation case proceeded to full trial recently, with a former student ordered to pay more than AUD$105,000 in damages over a series of defamatory posts on Facebook and Twitter, about a teacher at his school. This was the first time decisions about particular tweets have progressed this far in Australia.

Another thing to note is that you do not have a right to freedom of speech, particularly if you are a public servant. In a recent case an Immigration Department employee critical of Australia’s refugee policies, politicians and some of her colleagues, was dismissed, after the Department managed to find out who the anonymous tweeter was. The federal court agreed, finding that there was no unfettered freedom of political communication for her in the process.

In Australia, a man has successfully sued his estranged wife for defamation over a Facebook post that suggested she was a victim of domestic violence, after the Court found that she could not prove the statement was true.

The plaintiff, a teacher named Miro Dabrowski was awarded AUD$12,500 in damages at the West Australian district court in December 2012 by Justice Michael Bowden. The offending post, which was posted on his estranged wife Robyn Greeuw’s public Facebook profile in December 2012, read: “Separated from Miro Dabrowski after 18 years of suffering domestic violence and abuse. Now fighting the system to keep my children safe.”

Facebook is a public forum, and anything that you would not publish in a newspaper, should not be put on Facebook.

The internet is so instant, that once people have a thought, they write it –and it is “published” and becomes a public item. It is not just limited to your friends who are seeing it.

Once published, your statements are there on record for ever, and you have lost control of your statement and cannot take it back. Should you wish to post something based on emotions, it is advised that you sit on it for a day, and then consider whether it should be published. Even if you delete it, people may have taken a copy, screenshot and photo or shared, forwarded or “re-tweeted” it.

It may suffice to end this letter on a small snippet, from an Australian judge’s statement for the plaintiff in one of the cases relating to social media, and one which we all have to take due note of: “When defamatory publications are made on social media it is common knowledge that they spread.

They are spread easily by the simple manipulation of mobile phones and computers. Their evil lies in the grapevine effect that stems from the use of this type of communication.”

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