OPINION: SUVA (Fiji Sun / Pacific Media Watch): World Press Freedom Day is celebrated by journalists in Suva tonight. It comes amid a healthy and growing debate.
In the wake of the Pacific Media Summit organised by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and held at Pacific Harbour, questions have been asked.
What sort of news media should Fiji have?
Should it be the developed world model, thriving among other things on conflict and “gotcha” journalism?
Should it be the type of now discredited journalism practised by Rupert Murdoch’s News group, (the former owners of The Fiji Times, incidentally)?
Or should it be the developing world model, emphasising nation and peace building? The journalism of hope, as some have put it, rather than the journalism of despair?
It is a timely debate and one we must have.
Launching the Pacific Media Summit at the Lagoon Resort, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama told the journalists: “Your job is to inform our citizenry. Your job is to inspire constructive public debate. Your job is to help fight corruption.
“As journalists you inquire and provide information, and from your work and informed public can form their own opinions and make their own assessment.”
That much is very clear. It is how this can be done that is at the heart of the current debate.
Some valuable insight comes from Thakur Ranjit Singh, a former broadcaster here and former publisher of the Daily Post newspaper.
Singh researched a thesis on the role of Fiji Times in events leading up to the 2000 coup. His conclusions did not reflect well on The Fiji Times and those who worked there.
Singh said this week in the debate following PINA: “My research had shown that Fiji as a Third World country had media which was trying to emulate a First World press. As a multiracial country with a lopsided racial composition of media gatekeepers and newsrooms, Fiji was not ready for First World media freedom.”
Singh’s solution to this will not please some in our news media and certainly not some of our critics in Australia and New Zealand. But it is a view that cannot and should not be swept aside.
Singh said Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, facing similar challenges to what Fiji has more recently faced, had looked at journalists as government partners in nation building.
Singh stresses: “We need tried models in developing multiracial countries which practised ‘controlled’ journalism.
“Fiji media fraternity, media educators and government need to discuss the best model suited for Fiji’s peaceful future and political stability.
“Since the First World model let us down, there is a crying need for a home-grown model that suits and addresses Fiji’s unique situation.”
We say this is a call all in the Fijian news media must address.
Maika Bolatiki is deputy editor/news of the Fiji Sun and a former editor of Na Siga Vou.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.