Pacific Scoop

Anti-Fiji blogs run by ‘failed politicians and disgruntled journalists’, claims Minfo chief

Sharon Smith-Johns

Fiji Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns ... blames NZ and Australian news media. Photo: Minfo

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By the PMC news desk

Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns has hit back in the controversy over fugitive ex-soldier Ratu Tevita Mara, blaming mostly the New Zealand media for helping “fuel rumours” and “false allegations”.

She also attacked the “anti-Fiji blogs” today, claiming they were “run by politically motivated individuals who are mostly failed politicians and a smattering of disgruntled journalists.”.

Mara, who is in Tonga awaiting a court bid for extradition by the Fiji government after fleeing his country while on bail for a sedition charge, has been waging a series of bitter YouTube-based attacks on the military-backed regime.

As a lieutenant-colonel until he was decommissioned last week, Mara had been commander of the powerful Third Fiji Infantry Regiment and was third-ranked officer at the time of the 2006 coup.

“The media in New Zealand, and to some extent Australia, have helped fuel rumours regarding [Ratu Mara] and the false accusations targeted at the Fijian government and its citizens,” Sharon-Johns said at a media conference in Suva.

She said the “anti-Fiji blog sites” were not a source of credible information.

“These sites are run by politically motivated individuals who are mostly failed politicians and a smattering of disgruntled journalists. The majority of those commenting are from overseas and not from Fiji,” she said.

She was apparently referring to the race-based Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party led by former banker Laisenia Qarase whose government was ousted in the December 2006 coup and journalists who supported that regime.

‘Fallen for the trap’
“These blog sites have nothing positive to contribute to the growth of Fiji. They propagate rumours and stir up emotions to destabilise this country. Suffice to say the local media have unfortunately fallen for this trap and have used false information to lend false credibility to these stories.

“The media has been misled by these baseless reports and have been used as a tool to further the interests of this select group of people who have proven to be anti-Fiji.”

She cited some examples of what she claimed to be “false reporting”.

“Reports have suggested that Fiji is currently under 24-hour military roadblocks and people must be very cautious when traveling to Fiji. This is totally misleading and malicious,” she said.

“I also bring to your attention the recent report by a New Zealand journalist that states that Fiji will not be having elections in 2014.

“No one from government made that statement. It is false reporting and deliberately used to question Fiji’s commitment to holding elections.

“Let me state one more time, Fiji will go to elections in 2014; we have clearly said this time and again.

‘Unfair reporting’
“A direct consequence of this incorrect and unfair reporting is the upgrading of the Australian government’s travel advisory. We all know that there are no road blocks – there is no trouble. I am sure those Australians currently on holidays in Fiji, or doing business can confirm this.

“The unnecessary travel advisory will not only hurt the tourism industry but the people of Fiji.”

Sharon-Johns called on Fiji journalists to “counter the overseas media and correct this misreporting, why are we not doing more to stop the spread of these intentionally damaging and spiteful rumours.”

She said Fiji journalists  knew “exactly what is going on in this country, you have the tools to inform the world of what is really happening on the ground in Fiji, please use your collective power to work together to build a better Fiji”.

As the case against Ratu Tevita was before the courts, there would be no further comment from the government, she said.

“Let me urge the media to stop using any anti-Fiji blog sites as a credible source of information,” she said.

“Let me also urge you today to put Fiji first and report in a fair and balanced way.”

Salary claim denied
According to Fiji Broadcasting Corporation News, Smith-Johns also rejected a claim by Mara that Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama was receiving F$700,000 as his annual salary.

She said Bainimarama was not getting “anything close to $700,000”, reporter Edwin Nand quoted her as saying.

The Permanent Secretary said the government would no longer go over the rumours to justify the Prime Minister’s pay.

She challenged the blog sites making allegations to “show proof if they have any”.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 7480


  1. Tabs, 1. June 2011, 10:04

    It’s not surprising to see Kiwi and Aussie media giving Mara much publicity because for me they certainly follow the line of their governments.

    They need to be more objective and treat the Fiji regime fairly if they truly seek to help restore democracy in this poor country. If they feel that they didn;t have a role to play there, then my advice is this: leave it.

    They should by this time realise that Mara’s statement that he was rescued at sea was not credible.

  2. Thakur Ranjit Singh, 1. June 2011, 13:53

    Please read David Robie’s Cafe Pacific [: ] for a balancesd and well researched commentary on this whole issue. That is a must reading for TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, TV 3, New Zealand Herald, Dominion Post and Michael Field.

    The saddest episode of this saga is the blind dependency of the mainstream NZ media, including NZ Herald and TVNZ on a rag-tag blogsite like Coup 4.5. This is indeed a classic example of the tail wagging the dog. Here the First World media were captive of a political propaganda machine, a ‘coconut wireless’ of a Third World country, masquerading as a media, when in fact it is the propaganda arm of Qarase’s racist and ethno-nationalist SDL party. They are out to wrest back Fiji’s political control under the guise of elections which is equated to democracy. Fiji have had so many elections since 1987, yet most failed to deliver democracy, social justice and equality to a large number of Fiji citizens. That is what NZ government and its mainstream media fail to appreciate. If Khaiyum had Bainimarama in a trance and manipulated Fiji’s indigenous establishment, so did a rag tag propaganda machine, of NZ’s mainstream media.