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Part 1:Determination On Complaint Against Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

On 21 October 2016, the Media Industry Development Authority (‘Authority’) received a complaint against the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation from Peter Waqavonovono, Jope Tarai, Vani Catanasiga and Seni Nabou in relation
02 Dec 2016 11:00
Part 1:Determination On Complaint Against Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
Ashwin Raj

On 21 October 2016, the Media Industry Development Authority (‘Authority’) received a complaint against the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation from Peter Waqavonovono, Jope Tarai, Vani Catanasiga and Seni Nabou in relation to the contents of the Wasea Basha programme which, the complainants claim were tantamount to ‘explicit racism’ contrary to Part 4 Section 22 of the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 (‘Decree’), in that the material contained in the programme :

  1. a) is against public interest or order;
  2. b) is against national interest; and
  3. c) creates communal discord.

In their letter of complaint to the Authority, the complainants further intimated that the show promoted stereotypes that in the words of the complainants “iTaukei people are inferior because they fail in universities because they spend more time participating in sports” and that “iTaukei people are academically poor because they do not know how to read in English”.

Upon receipt of the complaint, the Authority carefully examined the contents of the particular episode of the Wasea Basha programme (‘Program’) and the following statements which were the subject of contention::

“Many iTaukei children cannot read in English”;

“Some teachers drink grog whole night and come to work lazy”;

“Many iTaukei boys roam around in the night with their mobile phones,    wasting time”; and

“Indo Fijian boys and girls do not roam around in the night”

Having thoroughly investigated the complaint pursuant to Section 25 of the Decree, and having considered the official response of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, the Authority makes the following determination:

That the content of the particular episode of the programme contained generalisations and stereotypes bereft of accuracy, balance and fairness about social progress of the iTaukei community that is not only denigrating, but may also have the effect of giving credence to racist stereotyping given the power of the media. Not only are the statements denigrating towards the iTaukei community, statements attributed to the Indo-Fijian community are equally unsubstantiated.

The statements made in that particular episode of the Program are contrary to Section 6 (a) (b) (c) of the Media Code of Ethics and Practice which provides that:

  1. a) Media organisations shall avoid discriminatory or denigrating references to people’s gender, ethnicity, colour, religion, sexual orientation or preference, physical or mental disability or illness, or age.
  2. b) Media organisations shall not refer to a person’s gender, ethnicity, colour, religion, sexual orientation, or physical or mental illness or age in a prejudicial or pejorative context except where it is strictly relevant to the matter reported or adds significantly to readers’, viewers’ or listeners’ understanding of that matter.
  3. c) Media organisations shall be sensitive to and particularly careful about the possible effects of discriminatory references to vulnerable minorities in prejudicial or pejorative context.
  4. d) While media organisations are free to report and comment on all matters of public interest, it is their duty not to publish or broadcast material in a form likely to promote or encourage communal hatred or discord.

The statements made on that particular episode of the programme, saturated as it was with generalisations, is not tantamount to “explicit racism”.

Explicit racism is premised on hatred. Hatred, under the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, is defined as “intense and irrational emotions of opprobrium, enmity and detestation towards the target group”.  Neither are these comments against public interest or order, against national interest nor does it have the effect of creating communal discord.

In its determination on whether the materials contained in the programme were contrary to  section 6 (d) and section 22 of the Decree and likely to incite communal discord, the Authority drew on the jurisprudence on freedom of expression as well as principles enunciated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘ICCPR’), the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

These considerations are integral for two principle reasons. Firstly, the importance of ensuring that any decision made by the Authority does not have a chilling effect on our ability to promote a healthy capacity for freedom of expression as a

 

CONTINUED TOMORROW…

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