Decision to sack TV veteran came from government
The media group Pacific Freedom Forum says a senior reporter at Fiji TV was sacked following a phone call from the country's attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.
The media group Pacific Freedom Forum says a senior reporter at Fiji TV was sacked following a phone call from the the attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.
A journalist and publisher, Ricardo Morris, who says he has just resigned from his role at PFF after ongoing pressure, says the media climate in Fiji is not free and open.
The veteran reporter Anish Chand declined to comment on the events of May the 3rd, which also happened to be World Press Freedom Day.
Ricardo Morris spoke to Alex Perrottet.
RICARDO MORRIS: It has been confirmed by various sources what transpired that led to Anish Chand's departure from Fiji Television. Anish Chand has not spoken, he's said he will not comment on the statements that were made. It was understandable why, with the situation that we find ourselves in with the media in Fiji at the moment.
ALEX PERROTTET: So you're saying that the sources close to Mr Chand have told you, or the Pacific Freedom Forum, that the Attorney General was informed by someone within Fiji TV that Mr Chand wanted to take the coverage in a more balanced way.
RM: Yes, that is exactly what happened. Fiji Television are piloting a new political show in the lead-up to the general election, and there were vox pops that were brought in for the pilot show. The majority of the vox pops had people supporting Bainimarama, supporting the government, and supporting his proposed party. So what we understand is that the suggestion from Anish Chand was that some attempt should be made to try and get alternative views, try and find people who hold different views and would go on camera with those views. And it is understood somebody at that meeting, or who heard about that meeting, then passed the message on and then a phone call was made from the Attorney General to the management of Fiji TV. And the rest, as they say, is history.
AP: Many people have feared that this is really the climate in the media in Fiji, although many in the media do stand up and say, "no, things are improving, and don't be so critical". What sort of message does this chapter send about what's happening in the media industry at the moment?
RM: Well, I think it's got to be said that there are clear restrictions. Even if people don't call out the emperor as having no clothes, I think it should be said, everyone knows that there are restrictions and that there are things that you can and cannot say. And probably the bigger media organisations like Fiji Television and Fiji TV, they come under inordinate pressure every day in all kinds of ways. And, you know, if there's any kind of complaint about broadcast, pressure comes to bear on them from the management. And I think that's the circumstances they're operating under every day.
AP: What has motivated your move to cease your position there with the Pacific Freedom Forum?
RM: From the very beginning, the media authority affairs, there hasn't been any direct discussions with me about it but there has been objecting the pressures that I've come under and other colleagues have come under, and I think it's safe to step down because I have become ineffective in the role of coordinator because of the pressures that have been brought to bear.
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