Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coup 4.5 - the Fiji politics of hate


By Graham Davis

MOST countries have laws that prevent religious and racial vilification. Most responsible media outlets – including those on the internet – excise comments designed to inflame religious and racial hatred. But sadly not the most prominent of the websites set up to oppose the government of Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

That site calls itself Coup Four and a Half – otherwise known as 4.5 – and is supposedly run by journalists. Its name denotes the four coups in Fiji’s post independence history -the two Rabuka coups in 1987, the Speight coup in 2000, the Bainimarama coup in 2006 plus what 4.5 regards as the half coup when Bainimarama’s takeover was declared illegal by the courts in 2009 and he abrogated the constitution altogether, sacked the judiciary and continued to govern by decree.

Now, Coup 4.5 is entitled to oppose the dictatorship, though many Fijians prefer it to the nationalist government Bainimarama overthrew. It’s also entitled to campaign for the restoration of democracy, though many Fijians are happy to accept the regime’s promise to hold elections in 2014. But there’s plenty wrong with 4.5 – unforgivably so – when it publishes the most vile attacks on people based on race and religious affiliation.

Grubsheet has taken the site to task before for publishing comments describing Indo-Fijians as “mongoose” or “mynahs” – the clear implication being that Fijians of Indian descent are imported pests. It regularly refers to the prime minister as “the Baini”, a disparaging play on words on the popular Hindi description of a person of low breeding or class. But now comes something far more grave, an all out attack on Fiji’s Muslims on one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar – the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.

This wasn’t in the comments section of the site but in the main editorial column. And it deserves to be read in full, not only to appreciate the appalling nature of the attack itself but to appreciate why the Bainimarama regime is so determined to stamp out this kind of racial and religious intolerance in Fiji once and for all:
Fiji is going through a false scenario of reforms and modernisation to have a new Fiji. This was reiterated by the PM in his address during the November 2012 budget. Sadly it is bound to end up with civilization with darkness.

The truth is Muslims, through Aiyaz Sayed-Kaiyum, is [sic] colonising Fiji. They are deceiving the people of Fiji using nice phrases and words such as modernisation, a new Fiji without corruption, transparency, fairness to justify their staying in power. Look at what has been happening:
  • Muslim [sic] riding hard on power (RFMF)
  • Rule by decree
  • Increase in the number of key positions in government being given to Muslims or those supporting Khaiyum
  • Weakening of Fijian institutions and culture and land ownership
  • Nepotism
  • Recruiting of non-Fijians, especially kaivalagis, to weaken Fijian’s capabilities
Wake up Fiji. Wake up to the radical changes in our beloved peaceful and friendly country.

Regrettably, Banimarama will not do anything: only he knows why it is, 'Yes sir, three bags full sir!'
[Image of the hate figure Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum inserted by Coup 4.5.]

This grubby little offering isn’t just inflammatory but utterly false. Muslims constitute just 7 percent of the population of Fiji – some 54,000 in a country of 860,000. They are hardly “colonising Fiji”, as the anonymous author of this rubbish asserts. There is one Muslim cabinet minister – Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Kaiyum – and one Muslim officer – Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz – in the RFMF, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. These are hardly “Muslims riding hard to power”. In fact, they’re total exceptions in their own fields in a population utterly dominated by Christians and Hindus. So the notion that they pose any “threat” is risible.

There’s also a puzzling reference to the “recruitment of non-Fijians, especially kaivalagis, to weaken Fijian’s capabilities”. Kaivalagi is the indigenous term for a white man or European. On the latest figures available, a mere 0.4 percent of Fiji’s population describes itself as European, under 3000 people in a population of 860,000. Perhaps the author was referring to the recruitment of American PR people or the odd expatriate lawyer. But this is clearly even more of a furphy than the claim about Muslims.

Simply put, Coup 4.5 – with this base offering – has become the local equivalent of a Nazi hate sheet. It’s designed to provoke and exploit the long-standing and deep-rooted fears of uneducated indigenous Fijians and turn them against Muslims in particular and Indo-Fijians in general. And it does that in the crudest way possible – to spread the lie that indigenous people are being marginalised in the land of their birth and robbed of their jobs and land.

There is also the implicit message that Fijians could be forced to abandon Christianity and live under the diktat of an Islamic state. How? Because Coup 4.5 positioned this vile piece of misinformation right next to the text of a routine message from the Prime Minister to Fiji’s Muslims to mark Mohammed’s birthday. The contents of this were totally inoffensive – indeed, sentiments universally shared of unity and tolerance. Yet it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bainimarama’s adoption of the Muslim customary greeting, "Peace be upon him”, when referring to the Prophet, was being exploited to carry a deeper message of a leader dancing to the tune of both the Muslim religion and his Muslim right hand man, Khaiyum.

Or as the “article” put it – “Yes, sir. Three bags full, sir!” Presumably no “no sir’ – as the nursery rhyme usually goes – because, in 4.5′s view, Bainimarama never says no to his attorney-general.

Who are these people? Well, they’re always anonymous but are said to be a group of Fiji journalists running their site out of Auckland, with contributions from members of the deposed SDL government, ex civil servants and a hard core of anti-regime “human rights” advocates. One thing is certain. As well as permitting overtly racist content on the site, they routinely censor any comments they don’t agree with – unbridled hypocrisy from a site that continually castigates the regime for its own censorship of the media.

The wonder is that some of 4.5′s content is written by respected journalists and academics who are Indo-Fijians to boot. There are contributions from the Oxford-based Victor Lal – arguably Fiji’s finest investigative journalist – and from the economist Professor Wadan Narsey, currently working in Japan after falling out with his superiors at the University of the South Pacific.

recently asked Professor Narsey how he could possibly have anything to do with a website that carried overtly racist content. His response was that he’d been told by the “journalists” at 4.5 that it was preferable to allow people to “let off steam than have them bottle it up”.

How any responsible person can accept such a notion is frankly beyond Grubsheet’s ken. This is bottled venom that would bring prosecution in New Zealand – the country from which Coup 4.5 supposedly operates – and, for that matter, in all of the bolt holes of the disaffected Fijian diaspora. Imagine the furor if any Muslim in Fiji had launched a similar attack on local Christians, and on Christmas Day? It’s inexcusable and unacceptable. No buts.

An abbreviated version of this article has subsequently appeared in the Fiji Sun.

SEQUEL: Predictably, the Coup 4.5 article has triggered a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the comment sections of the blog, along with a series of personal attacks on Grubsheet for having the temerity to criticise the piece.

Here’s a sample that has all the hallmarks of fascist propaganda – the bigger the lie the more believable, for those inclined to believe in the first place.

Freedom Seeker said:
While the followers of Islam seek to control the country- through subtle infiltration into the senior executive management of Fiji’s leading corporations and conglomerate companies- they will not be too pleased to discover that the religion they so vehemently follow with extreme devoutness – is, in fact, a sham.

There is increasing archaeological and documentary evidence being discovered which clearly shows that Islam was developed by the Vatican for the sole purpose of eliminating Jews. While many may be shocked by this revelation- there are a group of people who are privy to the authenticity of this fact- in fact, they may even hold key evidence and documentation which exposes Islam as a false religion- and an offshoot of the Roman Catholic faith.
Another made accusations of child abuse.

Coup 4.5 could excise this but won’t, even as it censors political comments that don’t suit its agenda. In other parts of the world, accusing the Prophet of child abuse and claiming Islam is a construct of the Vatican to eliminate the Jews carries the potential to spark rioting, fatwas, even Jihad. Yet at Coup 4.5, it’s all a legitimate part of the debate. The politics of hate.

Fiji-born Graham Davis is an award-winning Australian journalist who has reported widely from around the world. He blogs at Grubsheet.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pacific Journalism Review - a new regional media resource

PACIFIC JOURNALISM REVIEW - the only media research journal in the South Pacific - has been publishing in the region for the past 17 years. It was launched originally at the University of Papua New Guinea and then had a life at the University of the South Pacific. But it is now published by AUT University's Pacific Media Centre.

Apart from the many academic research offerings, the journal has attracted many Pacific journalists, such as the Taimi Media Group's Kalafi Moala in Tonga and Savea Sano Malifa, editor-in-chief of the Samoa Observer. International authors have included John Pilger and Robert Fisk.

Some 679 research articles and reviews have been published by the journal and more are being added to the archives. In the past, the journal articles have been available by subscribing to the hard copy edition or the online databases, but now the archives will also be available on the PJR website (long after publication on the subscriber databases in Australia, New Zealand/Pacific and the USA).

Topics include digital media, Fiji coups, environmental journalism, indigenous media, investigative journalism, media freedom, media law and ethics and media ownership.

Check out the PJR website, but login and create your own account to get access to the best content:
Pacific Journalism Review website
If you want quick access on a Pacific subscriber database, go to Niustext

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fiji floods disaster - message from Rotary

FIJI needs all the support it can get after the devastating floods that have hit the western parts of the main island of Viti Levu. The country declared a state of emergency today as the death toll rose to six. Here is a message from Alan Eyes, Rotary's district governor 2011-12 (and incidentally brother-in-law of Café Pacific's publisher) about the flooding. The pictures in the Nadi area are thanks to the Rotary team in Fiji:
You will be aware of the flooding currently being experienced in Fiji. It seems the worst has passed for the north, with Nadi experiencing many problems, and the worst yet to come for the Ba area.

Information from Bob Niranjan, our Fiji liaison on the district leadership team, is the Fiji people and support agencies are better prepared than in the past. Unfortunately, there have been two deaths [now six] and 1000 people [now more than 3500] in evacuation centres. Five towns have been closed now for two days with no road access.

Rick Eyre, president of the Lautoka Club, has been visiting evacuation centres and notes people in high spirits and again well prepared. He has not had to hand out any emergency response kits at this stage. He tells me that so far the flood levels are less than the last occasion and mercifully there are not the high winds which in the past have caused much of the damage.

Bob Niranjan, Warwick Pleass, AGs Shaheen Asgar and Ian Curtis are liaising with the Fiji Rotary club presidents. The role at this stage seems to be one of assessment and preparation for Rotarians to act as may be required.

PDG Stuart Batty, of Rotary NZ World Community Service, is liaising with the D9920 team in Fiji and MFAT officials and stands ready to travel to Fiji. Good supplies of Emergency Response Kits are in storage in Lautoka and Suva ready for deployment as may be required.

The Fiji team will keep me informed of happenings and any ways we in other parts of District 9920 may be able to assist. I know you will all join with me in wishing well our Rotarian friends and the people of Fiji.

Alan Eyes
District Governor 2011-12
District 9920, Rotary International
Many thanks for your efforts, Alan and the Rotary team.

As money is urgently needed, donations would be appreciated to the Rotary New Zealand 2012 Fiji Flood Appeal via:

Rotary New Zealand World Community Service where there is a PayPal credit card facility, or

• Internet banking telegraphic transfer to Westpac Banking Corporation, Wellington, NZ account number 03 1702 0192208 02 (international donors will also require Swift Code WPACNZ2W, IBAN Code 031702) for account name RNZWCS Limited (Rotary New Zealand), and include reference Fiji Flood , and/or donor name and club.

• Cheque made payable to RNZWCS Limited posted to PO Box 20309, Christchurch 8543, New Zealand

Donations are tax deductible within NZ.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Online campaign stops US anti-piracy censorship in its tracks - for now

SO Reuters reports that US lawmakers stopped anti-piracy legislation in its tracks this week, "delivering a stunning win for internet companies that staged an unprecedented online protest". Previously the fast-moving bills had appeared on target to become a draconian new curb on freedom of expression and information on the internet. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he would postpone a critical vote that had been scheduled next week on January 24 "in light of recent events". (See the Hindustani version of a Reuters report). But Jillian C. York of Global Voices gives a pithy account of the world protest blackout this week - January 18. She writes:

Global online community protests US anti-piracy bills

Today, January 18, is an important day for the Internet. Corporate websites, from Google to Twitpic, along with civil society groups and individuals, have all joined together in a common cause: to protest two American bills that could have grave effects for global online free expression.

As Global Voices' executive director Ivan Sigal has written, “there are powerful corporate and government forces who would prefer to see the openness and accessibility of the web restricted". The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) would both force websites to proactively censor potentially copyrighted information, and could, as Sigal wrote, “inflict broad damage on the work of digital activists living under repressive regimes, as well as restrict basic speech freedoms around the world.”

Because these bills have the potential to affect internet users worldwide, members of the global community have joined Americans in protest. From German digital rights group Netzpolitik to Open Media Canada to individual bloggers and social media users, the sentiment is the same: Stop these bills.

Blacking out

French site goes dark against #SOPA

Many sites have chosen to express their opposition by blacking out their sites, either entirely or with an interstitial page. Danica Radovanovic (@DanicaR), writing for Australian blog network DejanSEO, discusses Wikipedia's decision to join the blackout, a decision that affects the site's diverse global community:

Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia, which illustrates the level of concern that Wikipedians feel about this proposed legislation. The overwhelming majority of participants support community action to encourage greater public action in response to these two bills. Of the proposals considered by Wikipedians, those that would result in a “blackout” of the English Wikipedia, in concert with similar blackouts on other websites opposed to SOPA and PIPA, received the strongest support.

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