Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bainimarama, come on man!

Two months ago this writer met interim Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in his office.
The man, dressed in a sulu and a simple western style shirt was less domineering in person than in reputation.
It felt strange, to be so close to someone who had already stirred up so much trouble in the region.
We were there, five of us, all Board members of the Pacific Island News Association (PINA) to appeal for the rights of Journalists in Fiji, and those visiting the country.
You see, already, the media workers in Fiji were being silenced, were gagged, thrown behind bars and abused for doing their jobs, for revealing some truths, and Bainimarama, was not exactly discouraging the military from doing so, in fact, in some instances, the suppression was prompted by his direct orders.
So it was therefore with apprehension that we sat with this man, in his office, requesting if not begging to let Journalists do their jobs, to let the Fijian media operate without suppression.
“Well it’s ok if they do their jobs, as long as they are not biased,” the Commodore said.
“Sir in any Government, regardless of how it came about, there is a role to be played by the media,” I asserted.
Bainimarama went on to explain that maybe his interim Government did fail in one respect.
“Yes when we decided to take over, we didn’t have a media plan,” he said with a frown on his face.
Interesting comment, now how does one write a media strategy for the taking over of ones Government.
Let’s see, Step one: Close down all media operators. Step two: Replace them with puppets. Step three: Gag all Journalists who believe otherwise. Step four: What media?
Simply put, you can’t expect an integral part of democracy to sit still when democracy takes a beating, freedom of expression is a right, and the media exists to ascertain that right.
It is therefore with great sadness, that Bainimaramas promises that one afternoon to the five of us, the representatives of media in the region, were but empty as he turns around and deports the Editor in Chief of Fiji Sun, Russell Hunter for merely exercising his role as an informant to the people.
President of PINA, Joseph Ealedona said in the PINA statement: “The media is the voice of the people. It is obliged to report the truth and or report the grievances and concerns of citizens. Those who are offended also have the right to respond.”
The deportation of Hunter is a misuse of power to the highest degree, it is an infringement to one of the founding principles of any free society, which is freedom of expression, and it is insult to human logic and fairness.
When will this madness end?
Bainimarama, for lack of better words, come on man, let the media do their work.
Newsline supports PINA in urging the media in Fiji to remain vigilant and to respond professionally without any bias and prejudice.
The Pacific is no place for suppression.

Manuia le Aso.

Published: 27 Feb 2008
Source: Newsline Samoa Newspaper