Analysis

Nemani Delaibatiki: Online Harassment Of Journalist Tantamount To Cyber Bullying

Politicians must be careful of what they post on social media because it can potentially incite people.
23 Feb 2020 11:23
Nemani Delaibatiki: Online Harassment Of Journalist Tantamount To Cyber Bullying
Opposition Member of Parliament Lenora Qereqeretabua. Photo: Ronald Kumar Inset: Lenora Qereqeretabua holding a plastic water bottle on her way to Sigatoka.

All politicians, including Lenora Qereqeretabua, must get one thing straight.

They are under media and public scrutiny 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If they can’t take the heat then they should quit politics and go back to their previous life.

The way the National Federation Party MP responded to a Communications Fiji Ltd journalist on Friday was simply unacceptable.

The journalist asked a simple question and Ms Qereqeretabua should have given a simple answer.

Ms Qereqeretabua was asked why she was holding a plastic bottle on her way to Sigatoka.

The background to this question was that previously she had criticised the use of plastic water bottles in Parliament and even took her own non-plastic bottle to sittings.

Fiji is at the forefront of the climate change battle and the campaign to keep our environment clean.

The question was therefore legitimate on a matter of principle. Instead, she posted the interview photo on her official Facebook page and said she was surprised by it.

Her supporters insulted and vilified the female journalist. Many of the comments were rude and designed to embarrass her.

The photo was later taken down, but the damage had already been done.

Ms Qereqeretabua said in her post: “After concluding our press conference this afternoon which covered many issues including the reasons for the walkout, the petition, the environmental concerns of this Nasigatoka tikina, CFL reporter walks up to me and the only question she asks is ‘why were you holding a plastic water bottle in the pictures from Sigatoka.”

Lenora Qereqeretabua holding a plastic water bottle on her way to Sigatoka

Lenora Qereqeretabua holding a plastic water bottle on her way to Sigatoka

Ms Qereqeretabua added “I wonder what and who was behind that question and why that was the only question asked after a press conference that last more than half an hour.”

Politicians should understand that they might be asked questions that they do not like or want to hear.

Ms Qereqeretabua could have said no comment if it was too hot to handle or explain why she was holding a plastic bottle. Instead, she over-reacted and left herself wide open to speculation.

It also raises the question about her stand on media freedom and the independence of journalists.

Her party is always talking about media freedom and the need to protect it.

The CFL journalist was only doing her job. No journalist deserves to be treated the way she was treated.

If this is the way our members of Parliament treat journalists, imagine what people will do.

Politicians are supposed to set a good example because of their position of influence.

People generally look up to them for inspiration as their representatives in Parliament. Their public conduct affects people’s opinions one way or the other.

It is a matter of grave concern that some members of the public do not understand or refuse to accept the important role that journalists play.

It does not help when their elected representatives, like Ms Qereqeretabua, treat journalists with contempt.

Last year, there were a number of incidents where journalists were threatened and intimidated by members of the public, particularly in court premises.

The CFL journalist was a victim of online harassment or cyber bullying, judging by the derogatory remarks against her from people who responded to Ms Qereqeretabua’s post.

Ms Qereqeretabua for one, should know better. She has thrived for years through being in the media spotlight.

People’s hostile reaction is a serious threat to media freedom.

Using abusive methods, they try to silence journalists, who by the way, are only humans.

When this happens media freedom suffers and truth becomes the casualty.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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