NEWS

Local Media Silence on Racism Criticised

Thousands of Fijians face racial and religious vilification on a daily basis, but there is a strange silence, the lack of condemnation of this by the media.
23 Feb 2019 10:00
Local Media Silence on Racism Criticised
From left: Moderator Miki Wali the co-founder of the Haus of Khameleon, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner for the Pacific, Chitraleka Massey, Romitesh Kant, honorary research associate with the Institute of Human Security and Social Change at La Trobe University in Australia, Arnold Chanel, Mai Life digital editor Krisitiana Uluwai, final year journalism and political science student at the University of the South Pacific and FBC’s Manager News and Sports Indra Singh.

The silence and lack of con­demnation about racism from the local media in the country has been criticised.

During the Dialogue Event on Me­dia, Human Rights and Democracy at the Grand Pacific Hotel (GPH) in Suva yesterday a panelist raised the point that religious and racial vili­fication were the biggest forms of human rights abuse in Fiji.

“Thousands of Fijians face racial and religious vilification on a daily basis, but there is a strange silence, the lack of condemnation of this by the media,” said panelist Arnold Chanel.

Mr Chanel is currently a digital editor with Mai Life magazine. He is also a consultant with strategic communications firm, VATIS.

“In 2017 a prominent politician said, in parliament, that the word secular state should be removed from the constitution and replaced with Christian State. This was an attempt to deprive thousands of Fijians of their right to freedom of religion,” Mr Chanel said.

“If this were to happen overseas, there would be a huge outcry from the media, political analysts, pun­dits and the human rights commu­nity at large, but for some strange reason this was absent in Fiji.”

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner for the Pacific, Chi­traleka Massey, who was also a pan­elist, said this issue was indeed the elephant in the room.

“Any form of discrimination is wrong. There is a need for a nation­al dialogue on this issue,” she said.

Media freedom:

On media freedom, questions fo­cused on media regulations and their impact on independent and investigative journalism.

Panelist Romitesh Kant, a re­searcher on the Moral Economy project in Fiji who completed his Master of Arts in Politics, at the University of the South Pacific, said: “Journalists are unable to practice investigative journalism because of regulations. A good example is the Malolo Island case where a NZ media company had to break this news.”

However, Mr Chanel said investi­gative journalism was not stifled by media regulations because recently, the media broke an investigative piece on the Lagilagi Housing story, which he said was a great piece of investigative journalism.

“The Malolo Island case being picked up by the NZ media men­tioned earlier was not because of Government regulations but be­cause they got to the story earlier. The local media has since run with the story freely and without reper­cussion,” Mr Chanel said.

“In order for investigative journal­ism to thrive, we as media need to look on the inside and find that pas­sion. We need to stop looking else­where.”

Stakeholders at the dialogue event included civil society organisa­tions, UN Human Rights Commis­sioner for the Pacific Ms Massey, The British Council and panelists.

Feedback: neelam.prasad@fijisun.com.fj

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