Fiji economist disinvited from USP press freedom celebrations
A former University of the South Pacific professor says the USP journalism school was instructed to stop him speaking at World Press Freedom day celebrations .
A former University of the South Pacific professor says he was stopped from addressing journalism students on World Press Freedom day.
A former economics professor, Wadan Narsey, says he was invited to speak to students and had accepted.
He tells Megan Whelan the invitation was then rescinded, and he was told that USP management instructed the school of journalism to remove him from the programme.
NARSEY: There were no reasons given. There was nothing even in writing. One day there was a programme on the students' website and the next day that programme was gone. (Laughs) Yes. You'd have to ask the vice-chancellor of the university why he took that decision. But I presume they were thinking about what I would say.
WHELAN: And so what were you intending to say?
NARSEY: Essentially, a lot of journalists had been getting flak from the public about them not acting as watchdogs on governments. And I have been arguing that it's very unfair to blame the journalists when their content is circumscribed by editors and publishers, and even publishers and editors, they have to listen to what the owners of the media outlet have to say. So in my article I pointed out that you've got a government-owned and controlled television station and radio station, where the chief executive is the brother of the attorney general. They are completely run by government - there's nothing critical coming out of them. Then you have a newspaper and a television station which are owned by private corporations. And, unfortunately... There are two newspapers and a television station. And unfortunately, these corporations have got very, very wide commercial interests in Fiji, which can suffer if a government were to become irritated in them.
WHELAN: You've been an academic for quite some years. Is it, in your view, appropriate for the vice-chancellor to issue an instruction like this for an event of this kind?
NARSEY: This is very, very unusual indeed. I guess the problem is the vice-chancellor is very, very sympathetic to the regime. He asked me to resign from the university two years ago because the regime supposedly was withholding some $20 million of contributions for the university because they were unhappy with my criticisms of the regime. But the thing is, this was just not a university staff function, this was a student association function. And to interfere with the programme and the session, not only does it affect their academic freedom as students, but it also affects my right as a citizen of Fiji and the region to contribute to this programme. The real problem is, of course, that the occasion was very, very important in the sense that it's to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. And you'll notice that none of the media in Fiji have reported this incident where the university interfered with the programme.
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