Mr Ashwin Raj
Media Industry Development Authority
Fiji Sun Breaches
"I write in response to comments attributed to you and reported in the Fiji Sun's April 30th Coconut Wireless column by Ms Jyoti Pratibha and Fiji Today's Open Forum blog. Details of both reports are outlined below for your reference:
- Fiji Today Report:
Perrotting the Beddoes Line?
Quote: ‘The anti lot down at Radio New Zealand International didn’t get the answer they sought when they questioned MIDA Chairperson Ashwin Raj about the newspaper [Fiji Sun. RNZI’s seemingly rather inexperienced Alex Perrottet parroted the line of politician from the past Mick Beddoes of Sabeto. This is that the Fiji Sun does not report on the political parties here. Mr Raj told this RNZ fellow: I’ve seen various reports on the NFP, lots of attention on its new leadership. I’ve seen pieces by the Fiji Labour Party Leader, I’ve seen pieces by SODELPA, PDP secretariat, and so it’s there” Mr Raj questioned whether Mr Perrotiet had actually seen the Fiji Sun. unquote. As you will no doubt conclude, the sarcastic and snide references that Miss Pratibha uses to identify me and Mr Alex Perrottet are inconsistent with the provisions of the Media Decree’s Ethics standards, in particular:-
Sec 1: Accuracy, balance and fairness: in particular (d) ‘Media organizations have a duty to be balanced and fair in their treatment of news and current affairs and their dealings with members of the public’ & (e) Editorial comment in any medium must be clearly identified as such and kept separate from news reports.
Sec 21: Impartiality and balance: Media organizations shall endeavor to show fairness at all times, and impartiality and balance in any item or programme, series of items or programmes or in broadly related articles or programmes over a reasonable period of time when presenting news which deals with political matters, current affairs and controversial questions.
While Miss Pratibha may well have thought she was being smart with her sarcastic remarks about me, in truth she only served to expose her immaturity and basic lack of etiquette as well as her well known bias in favour of the regime. Her reporting style that is often based on generalizations and exaggerations. I have no problem being labelled a ‘politician from the past’ because it is from my past experiences that I have learnt to always speak to the facts and not be persuaded to make generalized statements bearing no relevance to the truth. Only experience can teach you that and Miss Pratibha has little, as yet. I have seen the same articles and news items you refer to and which are produced regularly by Ms Pratibha, Mr Maika Bolatiki and others and their employer the Fiji Sun. From my own observations they have been in continuous breach of the Media Industry Decree. The entire political reporting is a study in a lack of balance. Your organization has failed to take any appropriate action, despite the fact that these occur on a daily basis. You also said you had not yet received a complaint to be able to act on these breaches.
In February 2014 I lodged my first complaint with MIDA [Matai Akauola] regarding comments published by the Fiji Sun that quoted supporting comments for Bainimarama’s election bid from the outgoing Indonesian Ambassador. The Indonesian Embassy issued a statement denying their Ambassador made the remarks that the Fiji Sun article attributed to him. This suggested that Maika Bolatiki and the Fiji Sun made up the story in clear breach of the Media Industry Decree. However, as of today, I am not aware of any action undertaken against the Fiji Sun and its Political Editor. The Fiji Sun has not corrected its article. Last week, I sent my 2nd complaint to MIDA [Matai Akauola] this time about the Fiji Sun and its breaches of the Political Parties Decree and the Media Industry Decree for holding out Fiji First as a political party before it is registered. Today I submit my 3rd complaint to MIDA. This time it relates to your statement that there is no bias in terms of the Fiji Sun’s promotion of the Bainimarama regime and proposed party as claimed by political parties.
I am currently assessing the various political articles and reports of the news media in Fiji and will release the findings in due course. However, given that the Fiji Sun continues to breach the decrees unabated I have decided to use a small sampling of the assessment so far to make my point in response to your statement. A partial result of my findings covers 12 days of publication between 15th to 30th April 2014. I have used the following basic headings against which I score the reporting patterns: The Opposition includes SODELPA; FLP; NFP; PDP.
The other results of my short assessment clearly show that Frank Bainimarama and the regime had 55% of the Top Billing, 100% of the Front Pages, 89% of the Pictures, 85% of the articles.
I am not sure how one can say the extent of the articles of Bainimarama and the Regime as published by the Fiji Sun is accurate and fair, as required by Sec 1; or that it is impartial and balanced as required by Sec 21, when almost all of the articles featuring Bainimarama and the Regime carry no comment on the opposition view point.
I put it to you that your impression that the Fiji Sun is balanced in its political coverage is based on the fact that until fairly recently, the opposition had been largely absent from all media and therefore the appearance of some articles recently may well seem as though the opposition is getting as much coverage as the regime. This very short analysis says otherwise.
With respect to the Fiji Sun, its reporters Ms Pratibha, Mr Bolatiki and others, their articles and comments I believe are in breach of the following sections:-
i. Sec 1: Accuracy, balance and fairness: in particular (d) ‘Media organizations have a duty to be balanced and fair in their treatment of news and current affairs and their dealings with members of the public’ & (e) Editorial comment in any medium must be clearly identified as such and kept separate from news reports.
ii. Sec 2: Opportunity to reply: Media organizations have an obligation to give a fair opportunity to reply to any individual or organization on which the medium itself comments editorially
Miss Pratibha in particular demonstrates no such fairness or impartiality or balance with her one sided commentary as she makes her support for the Regime plainly obvious and continues to breach Sec 21:-
iii. Sec 21: Impartially and balance: Media organizations shall endeavor to show fairness at all times, and impartiality and balance in any item or programme, series of items or programmes or in broadly related articles or programmes over a reasonable period of time when presenting news which deals with political matters, current affairs and controversial questions.
In addition, the Fiji Sun and its reporters have been holding out Fiji First to be a political party when it has not yet been registered, again in breach of the political parties’ decree.
I look forward to your urgent attention to all my complaints including this, my 3rd complaint. An update on the status of your investigations into my 1st & 2nd complaints would also be appreciated.
Finally, in the interests of public information and accountability, I would like to ask you to name your Authority board members. Also, and again in the interests of accountability in the use of public funds, I would like to ask what you are being paid, what the MIDA employees receive, and the allowances of your board members.
Millis M Beddoes
Note: Fijileaks understands MIDA chairman Ashwin Raj is currently in Indonesia.