Monday, February 25, 2008

Australian media jumping with the deportation story

from w
So much for the good intentions of those who want Fiji's tourist industry to improve when stories like this make the headlines! Many of the Australian newspapers and media outlets have taken up the story of the deportation of the Fiji Sun manager, prsumably because of Victor Lal's stories about an alleged tax evasion by the Interim Minister of Finance.

An example of the reporting is from SBS.

Australian publisher deported from Fiji
Tuesday, 26 February, 2008
An Australian publisher has been taken from his home and deported from Fiji after his newspaper ran a series of controversial articles about a government minister. Russell Hunter, 59, the managing director and publisher of the Fiji Sun, was put on a Sydney-bound plane from Nadi on Tuesday morning, said editor Leone Cabenatabua. Cabenatabua said Hunter was taken from his home in the capital Suva on Monday night and he believes articles highlighting alleged tax evasion by a Fiji minister may have been behind the deportation.

Fiji is led by an interim government after military leader and self-declared prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006.

Cabenatabua said two immigration officials and five civilians took Hunter from his home at about 8.30pm (1930 AEDT). "They took him with just the shorts he was wearing and a shirt. His wallet and everything was at his home. That was the last time we were in contact with him.

"About 5.30am (0430 AEDT) this morning we called up the airline and were told that a Russell Douglas Hunter was one of the passengers. That is when we came to know he was being deported," Cabenatabua said.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was "extremely concerned" for the welfare of Hunter, and had sought consular access to him.

It is understood Hunter's Papua New Guinean partner Martha Waradin and his Australian daughter Reama Hunter were not at the airport when he was sent back to Sydney.

"They are really worried," Cabenatabua said.

He said it was possible a series of stories the newspaper had published were behind the deportation. "We have been publishing a series of stories from one of our London writers which concern a tax evasion matter and a minister in the Bainimarama government," he said. "I have spoken in a meeting to my staff today. I have stressed to them that this is part and parcel of being a journalist. What has happened today will not weaken us," Cabenatabua said.

"I said we'll handle this just as we would if Mr Hunter was here. This is the only way we can repay him, to continue going out and breaking big stories," he said.

Hunter became editor in chief of the Fiji Sun in 2003 and was appointed publisher in 2005.

On Sunday Bainimarama accused journalists in Fiji of being unethical. "Where is the supposed balance, intelligence, analytical and responsible reporting?" he said at a press conference. He attacked the Fiji Sun and Fiji Television for some of their stories, including those about finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry's alleged tax evasion.

It is not the first time Bainimarama's government has been accused of trying to intimidate journalists. Soon after the 2006 military coup, army troops occupied some offices of media companies and demanded the right to scrutinise reports before they were aired.

Last year some journalists were taken in for questioning following reports on internet blogs, and in another incident Fairfax journalist Michael Field was deported from Fiji.

(later) Martha, his Papua New Guinea wife, and daughter Rhianna have been given 21 days to leave Fiji. Isa lei, Viti! What manners, what lack of hospitality!

(later again, on Wednesday) from RadioFiji
State clarifies on Hunter’s case
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taken from / By: Fiji Broadcasting Corporation
The Interim Government has clarified that Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter was removed and not deported as cited by various sections of the media. etc. etc.
----Am I missing something somewhere? What is the difference between 'deport' and 'remove'?

1 comment:

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

from w
Ecrea is a reputable non-government organisation in Suva and I respect their staff - the ones I have met. Though I'm sorry that some of them are joining in the interim government committees that, frankly, are fraught with difficulties.

Anyway, I read this on the internet.
Media should be responsible: ECREA
Friday, February 29, 2008

Update: 4:04PM THE media in Fiji at times does not respect the responsibility aspect of their operations through lack of commitment on issues and poor journalism standards.

Responding to the Fiji Human Rights Commission media freedom report, Ecumenical Centre for Research Education and Advocacy (ECREA) executive Chantelle Khan said a lot was being said about media freedom.

There is also the discussion about the media being corporate owned and controlled in reality meaning that the media is merely an extension or mouth-piece for the elite, she said.

It has been duly noted that the media plays a very big role in the shaping of perception in Fiji - this is also brings big responsibility.

At times this responsibility is not respected through lack of commitment to the issues (e.g. the situation with water privatization), poor journalism standards, lack of balance in selecting stories and the ever present pressure to sell newspapers.

Perhaps it is now clear that media is no longer about the news and education but about profits and this is largely accepted.

However Ms Khan said they believed that there should be no impingment on media freedom or expressions by media outlets in reporting events, not from any form of state authority whether democratically elected or military installed.

It is essential for people to understand that the role of the media is important in allowing a nation to speak and voice opinions and challenge those in power and it is a previlige to be able to do so, she said.