‘Several external and internal realities make journalism challenging’

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Fijian Media Association President Stanley Simpson. Picture: SUPPLIED

Media standards in Fiji have been affected by several external and internal realities that have made journalism more challenging, says Fijian Media Association general secretary Stanley Simpson.

Simpson said raising media standards cannot happen overnight and needed time to develop.

“The coups of 1987, 2000 and 2006 decimated sections of Fijian media — media organisations closed down and operated again, senior journalists left the country or the industry altogether, our best and brightest got snapped up into communications and public relations positions that paid way higher salaries, we had censorship in 2009-2010 followed by MIDA laws that had draconian and severe fines of up to $100,000.”

Speaking during the Democratic Development in Melanesia Webinar Series this week, Simpson said despite these challenges and difficult realities, the media in Fiji continued to make great strides.

Responding to questions on whether major print and broadcast media exercised self-censorship around reporting, Simpson said different editors had varying answers, but in practice, one needed to be in Fiji to understand the scenarios surrounding the media.

“With every decision that an editor or media organisation makes, they have to be mindful of the implications, particularly given our political history and how certain words or reports on certain issues can trigger things.

“Of course the media needs to hold the government and the people in power accountable, but at the same time, the media agencies have to consider the various impacts of those decisions.” Simpson said given the draconian media fines under MIDA, media agencies were constantly mindful of what they published.

“People can say all they need to but they are not the ones dealing with the intimidation and pressure from all sides that journalists live through.”

Responding to questions from this newspaper, Fiji Television Ltd said their stories went through several checks from reporters to the desk editor, then editor or manager news, to ensure that it is verifi ed and balanced.

“As Stanley mentioned, there are scenarios we do consider as well before publication and they may vary on any given day. We have the Media Development Authority Act that serves as a guideline. The penalties are massive and there is the possibility of jail time,” said The Fiji Times editor in chief Fred Wesley.

“In saying that, we know we have a duty to hold power to account, and processes are designed to get that aspect of the news through. In the face of this major challenge, sits the need for journalism that operates without fear or favour.

“This is not an easy feat to manage daily, but it must be done.”

Questions sent to Minister for Communications Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum and other media outlets on Friday regarding the views above remained unanswered