Sunday, April 18, 2010

Whale Oil highlights NZ hypocrisy over Fiji

WHILE the New Zealand Herald has published an editorial declaring the "emasculating" media and amnesty decrees in Fiji mean that NZ must "stand firm", Fiji-born blogger Whale Oil has reminded the country about government hypocrisy over press freedom and human rights. His blog points out while NZ "waves the finger" at the military-backed Fiji regime in the Pacific, it quite happily engages in treaties with other authoritarian countries and those that have a repressive track record in media freedoms and human rights. When New Zealand has much to gain from trade, it remains curiously silent and pragmatic. Whale Oil writes:
There has been a great deal of angst over Com­modore Bainimarama’s draft Media Indus­try Devel­op­ment Decree 2010 which fea­tures harsh penal­ties for jour­nal­ists and news organ­i­sa­tions which breach vaguely worded con­tent reg­u­la­tions. Being a free­dom of speech kind a guy, I can see too why this isn’t a good thing. How­ever, Fiji isn’t New Zealand and each coun­try has its own solu­tions to par­tic­u­lar issues of the time.

It is extremely hyp­o­crit­i­cal of us to wave the fin­ger at Fiji over press free­doms while at the same time hav­ing free trade agree­ments with other, far more author­i­tar­ian regimes. Cur­rently we have:


New Zealand-Hong Kong, China Closer Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (NZ-HK CEP was signed on 29 March 2010 but not yet entered into force)

New Zealand-Malaysia Free Trade Agree­ment (MNZFTA was signed on 26 Octo­ber 2009 but not yet entered into force)

ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agree­ment (AANZFTA) – 2010
New Zealand-China Free Trade Agree­ment (NZ-China FTA) – 2008 Trans-Pacific Strate­gic Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (TransPac) – 2005
New Zealand-Thailand Closer Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (NZTCEP) – 2005

New Zealand-Singapore Closer Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship (NZSCEP) – 2001
Australia-New Zealand Closer Eco­nomic Rela­tion­ship (CER) – 1983

Of those, only Aus­tralia has true free­dom of the press. The Asean Nations (Indone­sia, Malaysia, the Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land, Brunei, Burma, Cam­bo­dia, Laos, and Viet­nam) with the sole excep­tion of the Philip­pines, and even that is mar­ginal, re true demo­c­ra­tic coun­tries, the rest, includ­ing Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia and Thai­land are author­i­tar­ian.

If you don’t think Thai­land is, then try and write some­thing in the press against the King of Thai­land and see where that gets you. There are no free­doms that we take for granted in Hong Kong and China yet we have deemed it desir­able to have a FTA and also to not com­ment on their inter­nal politics.


So why is Fiji dif­fer­ent. is it because gov­ern­ment was formed at the point of a gun? Yes? Then what about China? Their gov­ern­ment was formed at the point of a gun when the Com­mu­nists over­threw the legit­i­mate Kuom­intang gov­ern­ment in 1949.


At the moment we are also busily nego­ti­at­ing anti free­dom treaties like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agree­ment (ACTA), a law and treaty at the behest of big busi­ness, but I don’t notice Keith Locke or Labour rail­ing against that. We are also nego­ti­at­ing an FTA with coun­tries from the Gulf States, (Bahrain, Saudi Ara­bia, the sul­tanate of Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emi­rates.). Autoc­ra­cies the lot of them with­out exception.


And so I come to Fiji again. For some rea­son New Zealand has a fix­a­tion, mostly for the neg­a­tive for Fiji. As I have demon­strated we want and have FTA’s with coun­tries with far worse polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, far worse human right records, and yet we impose sanc­tions upon Fiji and travel bans. The lat­est out­cry has been over press free­doms yet in our own coun­try of New Zealand we have gov­ern­ment organ­i­sa­tions cur­tail­ing free­doms with a self imposed censorship.


These are media organ­i­sa­tions that con­tinue to spread rumour, innu­endo and straight out lies about the sit­u­a­tion in Fiji and Radio New Zealand, in par­tic­u­lar, has taken a line of shut­ting down any dis­sent­ing voice from the polit­i­cal group think about how “we” are sup­posed to think about Fiji.
The other half of Whale Oil's column picks up on Café Pacific's recent posting about Radio NZ's Nights programme host Bryan Crump "dumping" one of the better informed Fiji analysts, Crosbie Walsh, formerly director of development studies at the University of the South Pacific. A case of silencing one of the dissenting voices that don't fit the politically correct view of Fiji?

1 comment:

Russell Brown said...

That Whaleoil post is, unsurprisingly, silly.

Yes, we have trade agreements with countries that -- with the exception of Taiwan and Hong Kong -- fare relatively poorly for press freedom.

But Fiji also enjoys a number of extremely favourable trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand, including South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, which grants Fiji duty-free access to New Zealand and Australian markets.

What he's witnessing isn't s much hypocrisy as a desire to avoid using trade as a political weapon. I don't think this is likely to change.

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