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FIJI: ‘Painful process’ could lead to better democracy, says blogger academic

Previous government 'corrupt to eyeballs'


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Item: 6947

Alex Perrottet

6947 AUCKLAND: A former University of the South Pacific professor says Fiji could not achieve a full democracy without going through its current post-coup “painful process” under a military-backed regime.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand’s Bryan Crump Nights programme last night, Professor Crosbie Walsh said:

“There is no way you are going to produce anything approaching what you might call a democracy unless you went through the painful process that we are going through at the moment.”

Walsh, a controversial blogger over his opinions on the regime and for his criticism of Australian and New Zealand government policy, also branded the ousted former democratic government of Laisenia Qarase as “corrupt to the eyeballs”.

However, Nik Naidu, a spokesperson for the Auckland-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, argued that the current regime was intolerable:

“They are appointed by the gun, they have no mandate. There is no acceptance internally in Fiji and externally among the international community,” he said.

The most heated discussion on the panel regarded the media censorship decree which took force last week.

Radio NZ Pacific affairs correspondent Richard Pamatatau argued that a free media was essential in moving the country forward.

‘Scared to talk’
In his own experience of reporting from Fiji, he observed that “some people were very scared to talk to me… they didn’t want their names revealed”.

Peni Moore, from Women’s Action for Change who was last week named as a member of the new Fiji Media Development Authority, said people were suspicious because what they had said in the past had been often misreported.

She blamed the Fiji Times for a culture of racist reporting since the 1987 coups.

Pamatatau defended the Fiji Times,  saying the newspaper “produces sound reporting, it has all the sides of the story”.

The panel’s discussion on the media highlighted the conflicting cultural values of sacrosanct freedom of the press in Western countries, and the Fiji emphasis on “responsible reporting”.

“I am not happy about cutting down the dialogue, but I don’t think we can be measuring everything in New Zealand terms,” Walsh said. - Pacific Media Watch

Alex Perrottet is a postgraduate student at AUT University reporting for Pacific Media Watch.

Listen to the Radio New Zealand National panel here.

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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