Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 22:40 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 22:40 | SYDNEY

Nothing but 'good' news from Fiji


Graeme Dobell

9 April 2010 11:05

Fiji's supremo has issued a draft decree threatening journalists with five years jail and banning foreign ownership of Fiji's media.

The effect is to put the frighteners even more firmly on journalists and point a gun at the head of The Fiji Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. The Times has been guilty of trying to report not just what the regime proclaims but what the supremo has been actually doing and hinting at the actions of Frank's cronies.

The supremo will defend the restriction on foreign ownership as merely an assertion of Fiji sovereignty. Most will see its true purpose as punishing a paper that tried to stand its ground and do an honest job of reporting.

Doing an honest job in Frank's Fiji is a dangerous game if it cuts across Frank's interests. It's typical of the supremo's leadership style that 'consultations' with the media started two hours after the draft media decree was issued. And in the brisk military manner the supremo affects when it suits him, the consultations will be brief. The decree could be law within weeks.

By contrast, the consultations over some return to democracy must go by inch steps, stretching out to 2014. Surprisingly, some in the South Pacific gave credence to the claim by Fiji's supremo that he had to suppress Fiji's less-than-complete democracy so he could one day deliver full democracy. Surely that hopeful belief has withered, if not died.

Frank uses the language of democracy, but he acts like a dictator. And the dictator side of the personality is clearly in charge. Even if Fijians are allowed to vote for a civilian government in 2014, Fiji's military will retain the right of veto. In the supremo's view, any government must stay on the path outlined by the military. This is not a hint. It is an explicit threat.

In the Bainimarama universe, Fiji's military must have a permanent right to resume power whenever the politicians are seen as deviating from the true path. In the Fiji the supremo is creating, threatening journalists with five years jail is just a normal bit of necessary discipline.

Perhaps it will be the new tourists slogan. Come to Fiji for a holiday — we promise the news will be all good.

Photo by Flickr user fangleman, used under a Creative Commons license.