Fiji TV Announces Commitment to Ethics

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Fiji TV announced a commitment to media ethics and to make its work more ethical, according to a Pacific Media Watch press release.  Fiji TV’s statement reads:

“Fiji TV acknowledges government’s position on the need for balanced and fair reporting of news by all media organisation, including Fiji TV.  Fiji TV will ensure that it will improve its news.”

Fiji TV is “one of the country’s three free-to-air TV stations,” according to Paciic Media Watch.

The statement came after questions about the government asking Fiji TV to “stop running stories which go against the regime,” and saying that Fiji TV’s broadcast “license is under threat,” according to Radio New Zealand International.  According to the International Federation of Journalists, Fiji TV was told its material would be “monitored” and Fiji TV is currently trying to renew its license with the government.

According to Pacific Media Watch’s June report, Fiji TV got in trouble specifically for a May report interviewing former politicians:

“On May 23, Fiji TV ran a news story with interviews with deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase and the Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry (who was the deposed PM in the 2000 George Speight coup). The interviews were in response to comments by the Constitution Commissioner, Taufa Vakatale, who blamed previous politicians for what she said was Fiji’s current situation.”

In response to the government’s criticism, the International Federation of Journalists and the Pacific Freedom Forum came out in support of the network.  The IFJ issued a June 12 statement “condemning the recent threat made by Fiji’s government” against Fiji TV.  The IFJ added:

“The granting of television broadcasting licenses should not be tied to political allegiances or promises to self-censor, in direct conflict with the media’s duty to inform the public.”

The June 20 Pacific Media Watch press release indicated, however, that there weren’t issues between the government and the station.  Fiji TV is quoted as saying that “none of these reports” of government problems had “any merit.”  Likewise, “the interim Fiji government” disputed reports that it “intimidated” the station.  The government’s Ministry of Information permanent secretary Sharon Smith-Johns claimed the article was “based on anonymous sources and blog sites,” according to Radio Australia.

Jet TV published a statement from Fiji’s Attorney- General and Minister for Communications that said the attorney-general told Fiji TV’s chairman May 25 that “as far as news reporting was concerned, Fiji TV, like all other media organisations, needed to adhere to the Media Code of Ethics and Practice and be balanced and fair, not just in form but in substance.”

We have written to Fiji TV seeking more information about this and will update with any response. We are also writing to IFJ and will update with any response.

We wrote in February about a new Fiji media “decree” to allow media outlets to report “any comments by the Prime Minister or Cabinet Ministers” without fear of ever being prosecuted.  Fiji Media Watch questioned the decree, noting that media outlets might get used to send out bad information.

UPDATE: 6/28/2012 3:08 PM EST: We heard back from the IFJ’s Josh Bird about this case.  Bird told us that IFJ “relied upon a report from our partner the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF).”

He added: “PFF rejects the allegations made by Ms Sharon-Smith, and have explained that the allegations of threats were independently verified using a variety of sources. They stand by these sources, but for the safety of the sources are not comfortable naming them individually.”

Also, Bird noted “Some ongoing commentary on the story can be found on the blog of Marc Edge, a Senior Lecturer and Head of Journalism at the University of the South Pacific.”  See here Edge’s blog.

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Fiji TV Announces Commitment to Ethics

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