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Free up media or risk corruption and fund collapse, warns Fiji economist

Shailendra Singh and Professor Biman Prasad at the media book launch. Photo: Sophie Ralulu/Fiji Sun

Co-editors Shailendra Singh (left) and Professor Biman Prasad at the media book launch. Photo: Sophie Ralulu/Fiji Sun

Pacific.Scoop
By Pacific Media Centre newsdesk

A leading Fiji economist has called on the military backed regime to lift the tough censorship curbs on news media or risk growing corruption and a major financial institution collapse.

Professor Biman Prasad of the University of the South Pacific directed his appeal to the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, saying while many people appreciated and understood his desire to create a “new Fiji”, his efforts would be thwarted without a free media.

Prasad made his call in Suva at the launch of a special edition of Fijian Studies research journal devoted to media and “the struggle for democracy in the past 20 years”.

Prasad, co-editor of the edition, said there had been some good policy changes by the regime such as abolishing a Telecom monopoly and an emphasising agriculture as a major source of  economic growth.

“My appeal to [Bainimarama], however, is that his government should now let the media be free,” he said.

“This would be an important step in creating a environment conducive to dialogue and creating confidence in the country.

“The current censorship also inhibits the government’s own attempt to articulate its own views and some of the positive achievements.”

A free media was vital in the government’s moves against corruption.

“The government’s attempt to stamp out corruption is laudable. However, without a free media, its attempt to do this will be thwarted,” Prasad said.

Exposing practices
“Many people who may have information and would like to expose some of the corrupt practices are reluctant to do so. A free media would help the government to have a better handle on the level of corruption.”

He warned that Fiji’s largest financial institution, the Fiji National Provident Fund, was at risk because of management and questionable investments.

After the 1987 coups by Sitiveni Rabuka, the National Bank of Fiji collapsed and  taxpayers of this country lost more than $250 million.

“Corruption flourishes in an environment where the media is curtailed. In addition, the government can have more legitimacy if it allows the media to operate independently.

“This would help restore confidence in the country and we could see a faster level of economic growth.”

Prasad’s co-editor, Shailendra Singh, divisional head of journalism at USP, said the media played a critical role of watchdog in a democracy.

“The watchdog also needs to be watched – but not muzzled through censorship.”

Freedom of information
This was why journals such as Fijian Studies studying and critiquing the media were important.

The edition contains 23 articles by journalists and academics writing about the Fiji media, and includes an article about freedom of information in Fiji, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea  researched by three AUT University graduate journalists in New Zealand – Carolyn Thomas, Carly Tawhiao and Natasha Burling.

Contributors include Fiji Times associate editor Sophie Foster; USP political scientist and former journalist Dr Rae Nicholl; United Nations Development Programme human rights advocate Hannah Harborow; Pacific Media Centre director Associate Professor David Robie, a former UP journalism coordinator; and Daryl Tarte, who recently stepped down after three terms as chairman of the  Fiji Media Council.

“Some of the articles are controversial and will raise some hackles,” said Singh. “Sometimes the media can be as defensive and as averse to criticism and scrutiny as politicians.

“The current situation in Fiji should teach all of us the importance of debate, freedom of expression and plurality of views.”

The journal edition was launched by Fiji Sun editor Leone Cabenatabua and Fijian Studies publisher Dr Ganesh Chand, director of the Fiji Institute of Technology.

Fijian Studies
The journal edition text on the Pacific Media Watch database

2 comments:

  1. R.Krishna Raju, 2. June 2010, 18:48

    This is a good breakthrough for Fiji Media, but more needs to be written and published. Iam currently in the process of publishing my first book titled the Death of Democracy in Fiji and fear whether the book will be distributed in Fiji or not. The said part is after the implimentation of the new draft media decree Iam subjected to a jail term.
    Please advice

     
  2. fijian-kiwi gal, 15. June 2011, 18:20

    these idiots were the very ones supporting Bainimarama’s regime..bunch of ‘liu-muri (s)’. Just because theres strong pressure now from outside Fiji due Roko Ului’s historic escapade to Tonga, these same groups have shifted their allegiance! Bunch of hippocrites they all are…just need to get deep into their breedings..