Pacific Scoop

Fiji Times columnist calls for survival of threatened newspaper

Pacific Scoop
Report – By David Robie in Suva.

A Fiji Times columnist today appealed for the survival of the 141-year-old newspaper at a global conference on creativity and climate change.

Seona Smiles, now communications consultant for the Fiji National University but also a popular contributing columnist for the Fiji Times, made her plea at the Oceans, Islands and Skies conference at the University of the South Pacific during a discussion about book publishing monopolies.

“The government is wrong to think that by some magic it can change the Fiji Times into a non-critical publication by forcing its sale,” she said.

“I am very concerned at the future of a very small newspaper that has a 141-year history in Fiji.”

Under the terms of a controversial Media Industry Development Decree that came into force in June, the Australian-based owner, Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd, must divest 90 percent of its shareholding to local ownership or face being closed down.

The deadline is September 28.

Smiles, an outspoken commentator in the local literary scene, said the military-backed regime’s policy was to turn the country’s most independent daily newspaper into a “non-political animal”.

“I don’t think this will improve anything and it will remove another independent voice from the monopolised publishing world.”

A forced sale would be damaging to the “multiplicity of public voices” in post-coup Fiji.

News media have been speculating on the future of the Fiji Times this week as the deadline approaches.

A report by the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation saying that the Fiji Commerce Commission had turned down a bid by the rival Fiji Sun to take over the Fiji Times was later denied by News Limited in Sydney.

But the Fiji Sun today reported that a “proposed sale” of the newspaper to Indo-Fijian businessman Mahendra Patel’s Motibhai group “is believed to exclude the valuable property” owned by the Fiji Times group.

The Sun said that Fiji Times managing director Anne Fussell had briefed senior staff on the “planned sale”.

The Fiji Times owns a sprawling building complex in downtown Suva that houses its publishing interests and modern printing press.

The future of the Fiji Times was raised in conference discussion after plenary speaker Dr Susan Hawthorne, an adjunct professor at James Cook University in Queensland and author of several collections of poetry and the book Wild Politics, had spoken about globalisation in the publishing field.

She said the mass publishing industry in Australia and New Zealand was marginalising serious political books.

Dr David Robie is director of AUT’s Pacific Media Centre.

Click here for more about the conference.


  1. Save Fiji, 15. September 2010, 15:15

    This military junta has been a blight on the Fiji nation. The world knows that the reputation of the Fiji military under bainimarama is trashed. It is tragic that this group of poorly led ferals is also trashing their own nation.

  2. Starting of a Brand New Day, 15. September 2010, 17:42

    Rejoice people of Fiji! One of the most vile and racist publications in the world is in the hands of new owners (who will hopefully steer it in a different direction).

    This is the same publication that fanned the fames of ignorance to ensure that a democratically elected government was toppled in 2000.

    Those same racists occupy the ‘sprawling building complex in downtown Suva that houses its publishing interests and modern printing press’ from where they spread the same racism that helped the colonials keep Fiji a divided nation.

    The Fiji Times has NEVER been an advocate of freedom or the common person.

    It has always been the guard dog for the rich and powerful.