Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another assault on media freedom

Ironically, Fiji Human Rights Commission's Ombudsman Shaista Shameem, under attack from various media quarters over her leaked 41-page report upholding the "right" of the Fiji regime to deport foreign newspaper publishers Evan Hannah and Russell Hunter (both Australian), has a chapter in a media book being published in Fiji tomorrow. In this, she isn't very charitable about journalists and objectivity. "Can we, in reality, expect objectivity from journalists? Human beings , by nature, are not objective... Journalists cannot pretend to be objective. ... The role of the journalist is to scrupulously provide all sides of the story allow people to make up their own minds."
Fair enough, but this is journalism 101 - one of the fairness foundations of journalism that reporters grow up with. It is in the interpretation of fairness where the credibility gap begins. She complains that journos in the Pacific don't know enough about the difference between "coverage" and "cover-up". And she reckons that the "worldview of owners" is too influential. On her checklist for journos is:
  • "There is no such thing as objectivity of perspective; there are only subjectivities, including prejudices, and these must be kept firmly under control to protect journalistic professionalism.
  • "The right to a fair hearing is a requirement in reporting a story..."

In her book, there is far too much "manipulation" by media in the Pacific. But the chapter is generalised with no specific examples of her claims. In her adjudication in the Hunter and Hannah complaint (filed by "Opposition Leader" Mick Beddoes), there is an attack on an alleged "conspiracy" involving the New Zealand government - highlighted today by the Sunday-Star Times.
Meanwhile, media freedom in the region continues to deteriorate with Cook Islands News publisher John Woods becoming the latest journo to face the wrath of bureaucratic or judicial vindictiveness. He has been convicted of contempt in the High Court on Rarotonga over the breach of a suppression order related to a Manihiki land controversy.
Mike Field and others have also reported on the police raid on Fiji Television to block a Close Up current affairs programme featuring Rajendra Chaudhry that irked the regime.

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