According to Professor Wadan Narsey, MIDA honcho Ashwin Raj plans to follow through on his threats to demand written policies from
media outlets, although from the wording of Raj’s ramblings it seems to be print
media only so far. The move will come with less than two months to go before
the planned September elections which will hopefully return Fiji
to democratic rule from military.
Narsey published on his blog an email from Raj to MIDA director Matai Akauola which asks that it be circulated to
media outlets. In it, Raj seems to seek Akauola’s agreement that such a demand
is reasonable. It refers to policies regarding publication of “opinion pieces, [and] letters to the editor.” As
usual, Raj takes pains to absolve himself in advance of any possible press
repression. “This is an important issue about access and equity and must not be
misconstrued as MIDA muzzling media freedom,” he writes.
Raj also appears to back off his plan for a media monitoring unit, which with the coming election might smack just a bit too much of regime intimidation. “The mainstream media unequivocally rejected,” the plan for a media monitoring unit, Raj writes, “even though such an initiative has been undertaken in many advanced liberal democracies that are strong on freedom of expression.” Here he is mistaken, as most media monitoring operations are not government-run but rather done by academics, NGOs, or professional pollsters. To have government scrutinizing news media coverage on the eve of elections would just validate perceptions that
ruling junta is tightening the screws on media, which are already heavily co-opted or intimidated. Doubtless media advisors Qorvis scotched this idea.
The full text follows.
You will attest to the fact that on several occasions, I have requested the mainstream media to disclose their in-house editorial policy. In the interest of transparency, the public should know exactly the rationale behind the publishing of select articles, opinion pieces, letters to the editor to the exclusion of others. There are some who have received unfettered access and prominence in select media outlets and still lamenting that their contributions are being heavily censored while there are those who are complaining that they have no access to mainstream media at all.
I had also suggested the idea of setting up a media monitoring unit which the mainstream media unequivocally rejected even though such an initiative has been undertaken in many advanced liberal democracies that are strong on freedom of expression.
So the onus is really on the media to substantiate their claim that they have in place an in house editorial policy that ensures that the media is balanced, that they are committed to ensuring access and equity and are transparent at all times.
This is an important issue about access and equity and must not be misconstrued as MIDA muzzling media freedom. How does the mainstream media ensure that there is balance?
To date, I have received nothing from the media houses. I am now requiring the media to disclose this.
Appreciate it if you can circulate this e mail to the media. Can we convene an editors roundtable soon please?