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Panpa Bulletin : March 2006
By Thakur Ranjit Singh fIJI'S Commissioner of Po- lice, Andrew Hughes, has slammed the New Zealand media for their "improper assess- ment" of the Fiji situation in Janu- ary's rumoured coups in Fiji. Local papers in New Zealand and at least one television station sensationalised the situation by giving special bulletins and pro- viding headlines, which assumed that a coup was very imminent in Fiji.According to Commissioner Hughes, who is an Australian, the issue was a disagreement involv- ing the military hierarchy, involv- ing one officer principally with no support, and that matter was dealt with internally by the military in the space of about eight hours. "There was no threat to over- throw the government, which is what a coup is," the commissioner explained. He blamed New Zealand televi- sion and newspapers for not ac- curately portraying the disagree- ment in the military, which led to the sacking of former Land Force Commander, Jone Bale- drokadroka. He accused New Zealand media and journalists of "making a leap" in their assess- ment of Fiji's security situation. The commissioner said it was a case where the military had tightened security at Queen Eliza- beth Barracks in Suva, and this was picked up by local media, who were told the police would put units on standby. The secu- rity measures were relaxed af- ter the dismissal of the recently appointed head of land forces. Fiji, branded as "coup coup land" by a prominent New Zealand journalist, has been through sev- eral coups and at- tempted coups since the adventures of Colonel Sitiveni Rab- uka, a third ranked officer who took over the government in May 1987. Since then, the floodgates of in- stability in Fiji had been opened and nationalists have been try- ing their hands to derail de- mocracy, whipping up racial emotions and mantras of indig- enous superiority and rights. Distorted, sensational and insen- sitive reporting by ill-informed overseas journalists - especially Australians and New Zealanders - has come under the spotlight by various writers and analysts on media issues and reporting on trouble spots in the Pacific. Re- porters who normally would be reporting on horse jumping, gar- dening or motor racing suddenly become international journalists once they arrive in Fiji as a "para- chute journalist" to report on a crisis. Overnight, these journalists become expert in Indo-Fijian-In- digenous relations, Fiji's tourism industry, its history and economy. from Pacifc Media Watch online, http://www.pmw.c2o.org 14 | PaNPa bUlletiN March 2006 NeWS NZ media under fre in fiji Maori speech to be accurately reported By warren Page REPORTERS who don't under- stand Maori should check the facts with someone able to verify what was actually said and re- port it accurately, according to the New Zealand Press Council. The Press Council upheld a com- plaint by Geoffrey Dunbar against the Christchurch-based The Press. Dunbar complained that the newspaper had misreported Maori Party MPs' actions at their parliamentary swearing-in. The part of the newspaper re- port complained about said, "The only note of controversy came when each of the new Maori Party MPs attempted to swear their oath of allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi instead of the Queen. Each was made to repeat the oath, omitting the reference." Dunbar had explained to the editor that his understanding was that the Treaty reference was appended to the standard oath of allegiance that all the other MPs swore or affirmed. This meant that the Maori Party MPs' first oath was to the Queen and the Treaty. Dunbar said the words "in- stead of", as used in the newspa- per article, implied that the Maori Party MPs had not sworn loyalty to the Queen. The editor's response had been that the phrase and the paragraph in which it was placed was only a small part of a much bigger report. The reporter concerned did not speak Maori, and the mat- ter did not seem to have been of significance to anyone other than Dunbar. Submitting a letter to the editor was suggested. Dunbar told the Press coun- cil that the Maori Party MPs' precedent-setting action at the swearing in was widely reported. He thoroughly researched other media reports of the swearing-in procedure, and all reported that the Maori Party MPs swore al- legiance to the Crown and to the Treaty. The newspaper, Dunbar said, had a responsibility to find accu- rate translations for the swearing- in oaths (which were spoken in Maori), and it was not a sufficient excuse to say that the reporter did not speak Maori and that no translation was available. The Press Council said that while the passage was brief and a small part of a substantial lead story, the newspaper had a responsibility to "get it right." The Press Council af- firmed that New Zealand has two official languages, and all people in official circumstances have the right to speak in either English or Maori. For that reason, the Press Council did not uphold the editor's contention that because the Maori Party MPs were taking their oaths in Maori and no translation was provided, it was difficult to be totally accurate. he accused New Zealand media and journalists of “making a leap”