Friday, September 14, 2012

Fiji game on - Repúblika aims to restore media credibility

Publisher and editor Ricardo Morris at the Repúblika launch in Suva yesterday. Photo: Fiji Times
SO, AT long last, the era of soft journalism and self-censorship in Fiji is truly over. Or is it? Some media personalities such as Communications Fiji's Vijay Narayan say there is no self-censorship. And he is backed up by "checking" this out with three other media organisations. But others disagree. In fact, some disagree so strongly that former Mai Magazine editor Ricardo Morris has jumped ship and launched a new monthly magazine, Repúblika, yesterday which is dedicated to restoring Fiji's media credibility. This crusading step is so courageous, that it is worth republishing his launch release here:

Mainstream Fiji media failed in its duty
The first edition.
Over the past decade or more, Fiji along with the wider Pacific – and indeed the world – has seen a change in the media environment. Apart from government regulation there has been corporate encroachment, ethical lapses and a failure to serve the public in whose interests we should have been working.

The news media in general has embraced commercialism at the expense of journalism; the independence of newsrooms from the commercial arms and activities of their companies has become suspect.

The mainstream print media in particular, with relatively vast resources at their disposable, has failed to consistently and properly carry out its public service duty. They have failed to maintain integrity, balance and accuracy. Failed to tell people what they need to know, as opposed to the fluff the media thinks they ought to know. Infotainment has overcome news analysis.

Certain media outlets have blatantly sided with one side or the other of vested interests in their news reporting.  The profession of journalism, once an honourable and respected calling, has taken a tumble in the eyes of many.

As journalists, we have sometimes easily been swayed, letting the baggage of our biases, political leanings, provincialism, racism and sometimes our open support for political parties and actors, get in the way of good, honest journalism.

We must regain the vibrancy, excitement, the passion, the truth-telling and – probably even some of the gung-ho attitude – that were once the hallmarks of some of Fiji and the Pacific great journalists such as the late Robert Keith-Reid.

That’s why we’ve created Repúblika. Over the past six months, the team at Republika has worked on putting together a publication whose time has come. We have been blessed to have had the unconditional support of family, friends and colleagues – and all those who contributed without hesitation to the first edition.

In the week since we have launched, we have had several questions about how the project is being funded.  Whoever is interested in finding the answer to that question is welcome to pursue it.  I can confirm that there are no big corporate interests behind Repúblika. The creation of Repúblika has been pure sweat, tears and sleepless nights to assemble a magazine that captures pressing issues that affect Fiji and the region today.  What we may lack in finances and resources is more than made up for in passion, drive and determination and a belief in our dreams.

For too often, the media has insulted the intelligence of its audiences by delivering content that’s been passed off as journalism but has involved nothing more than ripping articles off the internet. This is something we will change.

Through the public’s support we will be able to produce journalism that jumps. For Repúblika, content is king and our editorial independence is important to us. We are less gloss and more substance.

It may seem idealistic, and whatever the practice may be, the bottom line is that as journalists we serve the public interest first and foremost. When we conceal or confuse issues for the public, we fail in that duty.

Our entry into the market has been described as triggering a “magazine war”, which is nonsense and baseless.  The established magazines have their own approaches and audiences but a wide gap currently exists in the market with nobody willing to take on what’s perceived to be a sensitive and difficult market – current affairs, corruption and politics, without the propaganda.

Repúblika will bring back investigative journalism, ask the hard questions without fear or favour, on issues of current affairs, corruption or politics. Politics affects all of our lives every day, whether we like it or not, so we might as well discuss it.  And with a new constitution in the making, it is an even better time to document the course of Fiji’s political development.

We at Repúblika wish to acknowledge the members of the public who have given us their blessings and whole-hearted support. We have come into existence to serve the public and we will only be able to survive with the support of the public.

We also urge our journalist colleagues to rally around us and work with us to bring back honour and integrity into our profession.

 To sum up, as I wrote in the inaugural edition of Repúblika:
We aim to regain some of the vibrancy of a free media, to act as a mirror on society without fear or favour. The Pacific – and Fiji – has not been immune to the ethical lapses that have been all too common in recent years in media establishments around the world so we anticipate being held to the same high standards we expect of our leaders and those we criticise.
Repúblika also recognises the inextricable link we share as Oceanians. We will explain Fiji to Oceania and explain Pasifika to Fijians.
We are independent, we aim to be informative and we will inspire you.
Ricardo Morris
Editor/Publisher

Café Pacific says good luck Ricardo. And now the challenge is really on to deliver on the promises.

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