Monday, October 15, 2007

Fiji Post article - re Who let the blogs out

from w
There's an interesting article in today's Fiji Post about a researcher on Fiji blogs since the Dec 5 coup. The title is misleading however - it doesn't mean the military write the blogs - it means they triggered the huge response in good and bad blog posts, mostly anonymous.

Military responsible for political blogs15-Oct-2007 10:28 AM

A SENIOR local journalist believes the military is partly responsible for the number of political blogs that mushroomed after the December 5, 2006 coup.Sophie Foster, a former deputy editor of The Fiji Times, said blogs flourished because of the restrictions the military placed on dissenting opinions in the mainstream media and across the nation in general.

The University of the South Pacific postgraduate student in Pacific Media Studies said that while some blog content was racist, defamatory, provocative and irresponsible, the argument for a free responsible press was also strengthened as an option worth maintaining in any society.

Her article, entitled, “Who let the blogs out? Media and free speech in post-coup Fiji”, is published in the latest Pacific Journalism Review. The edition has been produced jointly by the USP journalism programme and Auckland University of Technology Pacific Media Centre.

Foster said blogs came into their own in a climate where sources of information were running dry, mainstream media were under fire and the military was not averse to “repatriotising” outspoken critics. She said: “Blogs presented a platform through which anti-takeover views could be aired publicly, anonymously and without restriction. In effect, by cracking down on media and freedom of expression, the military had unleashed the blogs - and its subsequent public relations nightmare was worse than anything that could have been delivered under a fully functioning free press.”

This article uses materials which were gathered using qualitative research methods to. The research was aimed at gauging changes in the local media environment as a result of the country’s fourth coup.

The report, based on interviews with media executives and a survey of working journalists, assesses the impact of military repression of dissenting views in the press, the subsequent rise in anonymous political blogs and the type of content delivered.

Foster’s research found newsroom managers were very aware the media environment was not a free one and staff needed extra protection.

Among crucial measures taken during the period were attempts to reduce the unpredictability of the military’s response to criticism.

Editors from all six organisations said they received phone calls from soldiers over any anti-military stories they published. However the Fiji newsroom survey she conducted earlier found most of these had ceased by May 3.

While the blogs were initially welcomed, Fiji Sun publisher, Russell Hunter, said blogs and journalism did not have common ideals.

“The basic ideals of journalism are accuracy and credibility. You achieve that by being accountable to your readership. Blogs are not accountable to their readership because nobody knows who they are,” said Hunter.

Fiji Media Council chairman Daryl Tarte, acknowledged blogs were a growing phenomenon the mainstream Fiji media would eventually have to deal with but refused to give anonymous blogs any credibility:

“Blogs that are properly signed and sourced probably have got a place in journalism,” he said.

Foster concluded the rise of blogs showed the press was not the only champion of freedom of expression in the digital age.

When contacted yesterday military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga refused to comment saying Sunday was his day-off

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