Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Veteran Fiji broadcaster gagged on Pacific radio

A RECENT wide-ranging interview about Fiji has led to the suspension off air of veteran broadcaster Bulou Amalaini Ligalevu from her popular Pacific Media Network programme. Bulou Amalaini, an experienced former Radio Fiji broadcaster who started her 531pi Fijian-language Voqa Kei Viti (Voice of Fiji) in 1980, has fallen out with her bosses over a 20-minute interview with Fiji’s human rights advocacy group Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF) executive director Rev Akuila Yabaki (pictured). The programme included insightful views about media censorship and current developments in Fiji.

But while the programme drew some 25 comments complimenting Bulou Amalaini over the interview, three people emailed the radio station complaining about a section discussing the recent Methodist Church controversy. Regime leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama banned this year’s annual conference of the 200,000-strong church. The commander also demanded that the church sack two former presidents who were involved in previous coups, Rev Manasa Lasaro and Rev Tomasi Kanailagi, and are being blamed for “incitement”.

Acting chief executive Tom Etuata, of Niue, suspended Bulou Amalaini off air in response to the complaints – even before discussing the programme with her. He says the radio network aims for "balance". Bulou has now been told the suspension has been lifted, but it is understood she has not actually been scheduled for the regular five-hour Saturday evening Fiji slot since her June 6 broadcast.

All three complainants were hostile over Yabaki's and her criticisms of the Methodist Church. Said one: "And to bring such a person to openly criticise my church and its affairs to the people on New Zealand, how dare she do that. She continues to add on comments and remarks with suggestions about how we should run our church - who the hell is she?"

In this current post-Easter climate of media censorship in Fiji and the dearth of quality comment about the political situation, Bulou Amalaini’s programme has been a gem. It has been marked by quality and in-depth research and credible commentators. “But a lot of people don’t like Rev Yabaki for his forthright and independent views – and for the same reason, some don’t like me,” she told Café Pacific.

Among views expressed in the Yabaki interview were:

On censorship:
It’s difficult to get national news broadcast out of Fiji without it being censored by the regime. We have to find an alternative way of transmitting this information to the outside world, particularly when we are depending on the international community to help out.
On the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution:
Yes, it’s true that our Constitution has been abrogated. However, basic human rights still exist globally - and this includes the right of freedom of speech. Every human being has the right to freedom of speech and although the Public Emergency Regulation is in force … we have to try and work a way around this censorship.
On the chilling of free speech:
People are not so forthcoming for fear of victimisation, whereby they could lose their jobs and all interviews are being screened as directed by the regime. This does not augur well for a solution. Instead we need to keep the dialogue open. And, as I have mentioned before, there were some discriminatory overtones in the last Parliament but that does not mean that freedom of expression should be curtailed altogether.
On arbitrary arrests and detentions:
We are concerned at the arrest and detention of people by the police and military. Following the abrogation of the Constitution on April 10, the Public Emergency Regulation (PER) was promulgated for 30 days [and Bainimarama says it will now be in force until the end of the year] ... This PER [was] embedded in our Constitution and can be executed by Parliament as a security measure if there is civil unrest or disturbance in the country. It had never been used before until the coup was staged in December 2006 and more recently after 10 April 2009.
On the banning of the Methodist Church annual conference:
The Methodist Church chose not to be a member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) ... The Methodist Church is very much in disarray. If you look at the history of the stand that the Methodist Church has taken in the past 20 years, you will note that it supported the first coup of 1987 and also George Speight’s coup in the year 2000. But it opposed the coup of 2006 because it believes that Fiji should be governed by Fijians, who are their members, as if it were their divine right. This was the case when Dr Timoci Bavadra and Mahendra Chaudhry’s Labour Party won the general elections of 1987 and 1999.
How ironical that those objecting to the Bainimarama regime’s censorship in Fiji should seek to gag a prominent Fiji broadcaster in New Zealand for trying to open up debate.

Picture of Rev Akuila Yabaki - The Fiji Times.


Anonymous said...

"How ironical that those objecting to the Bainimarama regime’s censorship in Fiji should seek to gag a prominent Fiji broadcaster in New Zealand for trying to open up debate"

But thats just it... Fiji is a never ending tale of irony.

Anonymous said...

I heard that interview and there was nothing wrong with it, though Amalaini has in the past been known to favour Frank Bainimarama.

I'm not surprised at the decision taken by Amalaini's employers because they are sorry to say - "village people".

They make decisions without any reasoning. eg alot of staff sacked under the previous CEO Sina Moore, have got their jobs back, why because they are 531 people.

Amalaini's sacking stems from a bigger problem, and believe me its not the interview with Yabaki.

She is originally Niufm, and the other half of the Fijian programme team are 531, so guess what - the 531 team want to control the show.

So what do they do, get their supporters to call in and complain.

If their is a problem with the interview with Yabaki, complain to the BSA, not to the village idiots.

Her employers operate on agendas, not professionalism.

Anonymous said...

Those double standards, sums up precisely the height of duplicity, which the likes of Brij Lal seem to have obfuscated, during his fortnightly interviews from the unbalanced Radio Australia.

Thakur Ranjit Singh said...

I am shocked and disgusted at the sacking. I read the transcript of the interview, and saw it as very refreshing and factual, and indeed, as David Robie implied, it is ironical for the pot to be calling the kettle black when they (station)themselves are suppressing freedom of information, and yet accusing Bainimarama of doing so.If the media owners want their reporters to broadcast what they want to hear, then they should close shop and open up coconut wireless. Please grow up, and do not gag the media - we already have so much of that. Let information and opinion flow freely-At least let it be free here - in Aotearoa.
A warning is that if you allow your internal politics to massacre editorial content, then the station and media owners will be the ultimate victims - the public will switch on to the more switched-on, balanced and fair stations.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you 531PI in a mediascape where the Pacific journos who work so hard with their hearts, not with their connections, are in such short supply.

Through these short sighted actions you have brought contempt on yourselves and must be brought to account before the taxpaying public who fund your petty practices.

Where's the love? More the point, where's the conscience?

The worst nightmare a media worker faces is being on a team that bats for a other side when it comes to complaints. Come on kotou, use the BSA process thats what it is there for.

You've just nailed another tag in the stereotyple of Pacific people doing themselves in. At least in Fiji they have guns in newsrooms to blame. All NZ needs, it seems, is 531 PI feeding into the personal-tag-team games when it should be showing the rest of NZ media how it's done.

In shame and disgust, Lisa Williams, Cook Islands journalist.

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