Media silence over claims against Fiji AG show 'testing times'
The latest allegations against Fiji's Attorney General have again gone mostly unreported in Fiji media.
Claims by Fiji's opposition that the country's Attorney-General made a false statement regarding his personal assets has not been widely reported in Fiji newspapers.
The opposition leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, says Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum grossly undervalued a property in a signed statutory declaration earlier this year.
The story has only been reported online by the Republika magazine.
Our correspondent in Suva and the acting editor of Republika, Vosita Kotoiwasawasa, told Alex Perrottet these are still "testing times" for the Fiji media.
VOSITA KOTOIWASAWASA: There is now evidence to show that these are the discrepancies that maybe people like the Attorney General thought they could get away from. That is the current issue that people are talking about now. And some are even going on to say that justice is not really being delayed here, finally these sort of matters are being highlighted, on social media, even though it is not spread across the whole range of media that is available in Fiji at the moment.
ALEX PERROTTET: One of the developments we've had with the media decree and accusations of censorship in Fiji in recent years, is the Government coming out and saying there's no problem publishing sensitive news, as long as there's balance, and that a newspaper should hold off on a story until they get both sides of a story. We've had complaints from the media themselves saying that that can be a way for the Government to control a story by simply not responding to requests for comment. So you see this case as a prime example of that and a reason why we haven't seen this story run in the two main daily newspapers, the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun.
VK: The media environment in Fiji is such that any allegation against a powerful figure like the Attorney General is not likely to get coverage because of the fear of retaliation, whether that fear is founded or not. And also plus it could be that editors don't think it is a story that they should give coverage to but as to why, this is something that is really hard to discern. And also journalists ultimately take their cue from their editors, so it may be a case that editors are not assigning this story to their journalists.
AP: The punishments for this false declarations are up to $50,000 or up to 10 years in jail, or both. It's a serious claim. Do you have faith that the media will in the end get to this story, or do you have more fear that this is just another one that is slowly going to disappear with time?
VK: I think this will be a case where it will depend on the different media organisations, whether they will really pick it up and go with the story. In light of the recent events that have happened, it has been down to the superiors in the newsroom - the editors - to go ahead with the story or not, because many times whenever a good story, a good strong story comes up, there is fear of going ahead with the story itself, because then the managers might get penalised. This is still testing waters for the media in Fiji, for us to know how we can really do a story as such, like we are talking about now.
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