Fiji was a media pariah among Pacific nations, as well as a political outcast, for much of the eight years after Voreqe Bainimarama’s military coup in December 2006. But while some media credibility was restored in the months leading up to the 2014 general elections and during the ballot itself, the elephant is still in the room: the 2010 Media Industry Development Decree (Fijian Government 2010). While this Decree remains in force, Fiji can hardly claim to have a truly free and fair media.
Just seven months out from the September 17 elections, Fiji was ranked 107th out of 179 countries listed in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index prepared by the Paris-based global media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF). That ranking was an improvement on the previous year (RSF 2014a), rising 10 places from
the 2013 ranking. The major reason for this improvement was the adoption of the new Constitution on 6 September 2013, criticised as it was in many quarters during that year, and the promise of ‘free and fair’ elections by 30 September 2014. The elections gave Fiji’s ranking a further boost, rising 14 places to 93rd (RSF 2015).
There was considerable hope among news media and civil society groups that the general elections would open the door to a free media climate, which had been lacking since the coup. Over the past few months there has been a marked improvement in public debate and news media have been relatively more robust in terms of published political comment and debate, particularly in news columns and in letters to the editor.
The People Have Spoken: The 2014 Fiji Elections
Edited by Steven Ratuva and Stephanie Lawson
The September 2014 elections in Fiji was one of the most anticipated in the history of the country, coming after eight years of military rule and under a radically new constitution that introduced a system of proportional representative (PR) and without any reserved communal seats. The election was won overwhelmingly by FijiFirst, a party formed by 2006 coup leader Frank Bainimarama. He subsequently embarked on a process of shifting the political configuration of Fijian politics from inter-ethnic to trans-ethnic mobilisation. The shift has not been easy in terms of changing people’s perceptions and may face some challenges in the longer term, despite Bainimarama’s clear victory in the polls. Ethnic consciousness has the capacity to become re‑articulated in different forms and to seek new opportunities for expression. This book explores these and other issues surrounding the 2014 Fiji elections in a collection of articles written from varied political, intellectual and ideological positions.
Robie, David (2016). 'Unfree and unfair'?: Media intimidation in Fiji's 2014 elections. Chapter 5 in Steven Ratuva and Stephanie Lawson (Eds.), The People Have Spoken: The 2014 Fiji Elections. Canberra: Australian National University. Available in pdf format at ANU Press: http://press-files.anu.edu.au/downloads/press/p337333/pdf/ch052.pdf