Matai Akauola is the new director of Fiji’s Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA).
Report – By Daniel Drageset
The newly appointed director of the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) in Fiji Matai Akauola is critical of how New Zealand and Australian media have addressed Fiji since the 2006 coup.
In an interview with Pacific Media Watch, Akauola characterised New Zealand and Australian media as “questionable” in their reports on Fiji media.
“You [Australian and New Zealand media] continue to look at the Fiji Media Authority instead of looking at your own background yourself.
“That’s something that I see that since the coup in 2006, the New Zealand and Australian media have continued to try to dictate to us how we live our lives,” Akauola said.
Akauola, who was the chief executive of the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) until his recent appointment, emphasised “home-grown solutions” in developing the Fiji media.
“Home-grown problems can only be met by home-grown solutions. For us, the Fijian media we need to come together and see what work for us and how do we want to progress from here.”
Professionalisation of journalists
Akauola said he hoped the quality of journalism would be improved with him in charge of the Media Authority.
The experienced journalist told he had many suggestions on how to raise the standard of journalism in Fiji.
“I already have proposals for workshops on Parliament and the media. Likewise, social media is a tool for covering elections. There’s a whole lot of training that we propose to undertake before elections, because we haven’t had a Parliament in the last six-seven years.
“From a media perspective, there is so much for us to do, so we’ll try and take one step of the time. We have almost a year [before the elections] to put in place various training, workshops for journalists that are here, who were not there when there was a Parliament, so a whole lot of things to be done,” Akauola said.
MIDA would also collaborate with the University of Fiji, Akauola told, to establish training programmes for experienced journalists without any formal degrees or diplomas.
Akauola also said he wanted to raise the salaries of journalists in Fiji.
Many journalism graduates and young journalists start working in NGOs or the civil society because of higher salaries, and Akauola said he hoped to get journalists to stay on longer.
The new MIDA director called it a “last resort” to use the controversial Media Industry Development Decree (MIDD).
The decree has drawn criticism from NGOs. Freedom House wrote in its 2012 report about Fiji that “the decree allowed officers authorised by a government-appointed media authority to enter newsrooms and media offices to seize any documentation, materials, or equipment on the basis of vaguely defined complaints.”
It argued that the existence of the decree has led to a large degree of self-censorship in the country.
Akauola said he would rather focus on the “positives than the negatives” regarding the decree.
“Ever since the coming into force of the media decree in 2010, people have focused so much on the power of the authority and the penalties, and hardly touched on what I believe is critical, the functions of the authority and how it intends to lift media standards,” Akauola said.
“Proactively we’ve told our media colleagues to understand the decree and the code of ethics. Once they are clear with that, they shouldn’t have any problems in terms of looking at the penalty.
“So [we] would rather be proactively telling them, you know, understand your media code of ethics – it’s in the decree, so should you abide with that [then] you shouldn’t have any problem in that regard.”
Daniel Drageset is the Pacific Scoop internship editor.