# GLOVES OFF OVER USP JOURNALISM

Marc Edge (r) in familiar advertorial mode with his one-time protector Professor Sudesh Mishra (l) Photo: Facebook

UPDATED FEBRUARY 4TH AS DAVID ROBIE BRANDS MARC EDGE A LIAR:

Grubsheet is bored to distraction with the antics of Marc Edge, the academic poseur who was forced to resign as head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific after repeated complaints of misconduct. But we’re returning to the vomit – the only apt description for Edge’s rantings – because he’s widened his vendetta against us to encompass Professor David Robie, one of the Pacific’s most respected journalist educators and the only Professor of Journalism at any New Zealand or island university.

Marc Edge (l) and David Robie (r) in happier times. Sandwiched in the middle, Edge’s hapless USP deputy Irene Manueli (Photo: ME’s website)

Robie’s crime – in Edge’s eyes – is to have the temerity to question his preposterous attempts to muddy the waters about his departure from USP. Edge is still running the line that he was “hounded out of Fiji” in a covert operation by Grubsheet conducted for our part-time employer, Qorvis Communications, on behalf of its client, the Fijian Government. It presumably suits this leftist Canadian and his gullible academic pals to rant about “black ops” mounted by a US company for a military dictatorship. There’s only one problem. None of it is true.

David Robie in professorial garb (photo” Cafe Pacific)

Yes, Grubsheet has drawn a considerable amount of attention to Marc Edge over the past few months. But much of it predated our association with Qorvis and had nothing to do with silencing Edge’s political views, as he now absurdly claims. We turned a blow torch on Marc Edge because of his travesties in the name of “journalism” – such as blatant misrepresentation of the facts and appearing in a paid advertorial – and the unconscionable manner in which he waged war on his own students and fellow academics until the USP hierarchy cried “enough!”

Marc Edge refuses to say precisely why he left USP, telling Radio Australia last week that he “couldn’t comment” on the circumstances of his departure. His gullible interlocutor didn’t have the wit to ask why. And so Edge continues to mask the truth with a risible narrative of saintly academic destroyed by evil Grubsheet working for evil US company working for evil dictatorship. Pardon me, but who is really the accomplished spin merchant here?

Here’s looking up your sulu: Marc Edge (l) Photo: ME’s website

Professor Robie – the Head of the Pacific Media Unit at Auckland University of Technology -  evidently decided that enough is enough. He broke ranks to blow the whistle on Marc Edge and try to throttle the whole sorry pretence. Edge, however, refuses to let matters rest. Consumed with bitterness and trembling with indignation, if not the cold, in his icy Canadian bolthole, Edge spews forth hot venom against David Robie, linking him in bizarre fashion to the Grubsheet/Qorvis plot. Nothing could be further from the truth, both the Robie link and the plot itself.

Reading these latest exchanges, Grubsheet has come to the conclusion that Marc Edge is not only a fantasist but insane. He sits over the keyboard in lonely exile, rewriting history and battling imaginary demons. So dire is his mental state that he’s begun to send emails to Grubsheet containing messages such as ” he he he ” or “woof woof woof”. Yes, barking mad. It surely can’t be the bottle. What other possible explanation can there be?

IN THE RING WITH DAVID ROBIE AND MARC EDGE.  THE SAGA IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:

Photo: Cafe Pacific

ROBIE SWINGS:

Vendetta journalism and counterpropaganda, ‘Fiji style’

IN RECENT weeks, the Fiji blogosphere has run hot over attempts by the ousted former head of journalism of the University of the South Pacific, Dr Marc Edge, a self-styled “counterpropagandist”, to portray himself as some kind of martyr for the Fiji media freedom cause. His claims peaked with an allegation that he “feared my safety was in jeopardy” in a curiously lop-sided Radio Australia interview with journalist Bruce Hill.

However, Café Pacific today exposes another side of the story. It had been an open secret for months at USP and in media education circles around the Pacific that Dr Edge was on the way out after the shortest tenure ever of any expatriate journalism coordinator – barely serving half of a three-year contract. He was dumped after sustained and embarrassing complaints by students, colleagues and media academics in at least two other Pacific Islands Forum countries. The situation had become untenable for the Canadian lecturer as he was perceived to be “waging war” on his students. Initially, he was “relieved”  of his position as acting head of journalism with a humiliating public statement by USP management on November 14  and then he was gone from the faculty staff by Christmas.

But there was no inkling of any of this in Bruce Hill’s Radio Australia interview on January 25. (Although Hill did ask Edge whether he had been dismissed or resigned and got a “cannot comment” reply). Nor did Hill put the obvious question to Edge about why he had used the Fiji Media Tribunal mechanism to file a controversial complaint against a local media organisation that he had been accusing of practising “self-censorship”  – conveniently using the very Media Industry Development Decree  he had been condemning for months. Edge blamed his demise at USP solely on the military-backed regime and Qorvis Communications, a US-based media spin company contracted to the Suva government, and ignored the journalism programme wreckage – his legacy.

It was pretty obvious to everybody who was following what happened that I was the subject of the government smear campaign through the propaganda arm, Qorvis Communications.

It became apparent after I started my blog that they weren’t very happy with some of the media analysis that I had up on Fiji Media Wars. And I received some complaints, some requests to take down a particular entry about Qorvis Communications, which I did under protest. [Later reposted after he left Fiji.]

And the government subsequently complained about … a joke I told at an event [the USP journalism awards] and also a funny email that I forwarded to my students. So it got a bit ridiculous there …

On his own blog, just a month earlier on December 26, Edge claimed he had been “hounded out of Fiji”. Asking rhetorically: “Did I jump, or was I pushed?,” he answered:

“Let’s say it was a little bit of both. I was certainly pushed. To the Edge, you might say. In the end, I decided it would be better to make an orderly exit from Fiji than to be bundled off kicking and screaming under a deportation order.”
He added:
“Unfortunately, this blog made things a little bit too hot for me with the country’s military dictatorship.”

Intervention by the regime, or not, Marc Edge was already teetering after stumbling from one internal crisis to the next at USP. He already had a long track record of tension within the journalism programme and many complaints from students, both formal and informal – particularly some of the senior team who recently won a best student newspaper double award for their publication Wansolwara at the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) awards in Melbourne. Many of their gripes about alleged “bullying” and “bizarre” behaviour were posted on social media sites.

Visiting media academics at a Media and Democracy in the South Pacific conference hosted by USP last September also encountered tensions simmering below the surface that boiled over at least twice in the plenary sessions. Critics say there was a widespread view that Dr Edge had lost the confidence of many of his students and staff and was “self-destructing”, as some put it. An internal inquiry was launched.

Café Pacific understands that the general view among many academic and allied staff included criticisms such as:

*An attack on local media, accusing them of self-censorship, particularly Communications Fiji Ltd’s award-winning Vijay Narayan and his team. When Narayan challenged Edge both on FijiVillage.com, reporting that the lecturer admitted he had “no evidence”, and in a phonecall, Edge filed a complaint with the very same Fiji Media Tribunal established by the regime that he had been castigating for months.“He claims to be standing for media freedom and democracy,” said one Fiji media insider in an email to Café Pacific. “Looks like he doesn’t understand terms. Or is he a hypocrite pretending to fight for media freedom while using the MDA [Media Development Authority] when it suits him?” He also threatened defamation lawsuits against a prominent Fiji journalist and the Fiji Sun newspaper while championing a “free press”. (For the record, Café Pacific has written about censorship and self-censorship in Fiji frequently in the past).

*Edge’s alleged lack of knowledge of the Pacific and cross-cultural and linguistic contexts such as in the Francophone Pacific. Also, his denial of a Pacific media culture. Colleagues said he came to Fiji with a “superior attitude” and who believed he “knew better than the locals”.

*Undermining of the unique “Pacific-based” USP regional programme by dumping a growing literature of Pacific textbooks and course materials and substituting American and Australian books. Edge claimed he was raising standards to an “international” level, but in fact the programme became demoralised and plunged to a lower standard under his brief tenure (USP journalism had won some 16 international awards since 1998, before Dr Edge arrived). One senior staff member said after Edge’s departure: “We’re looking forward to new beginnings this year, I’m certain we will be able to heal and reconnect with all our stakeholders.”

*“Revenge” attacks on part-time regime media consultant Graham Davis, a Fiji-born television journalist and blogger, and retired former USP professor Crosbie Walsh, who both publish insightful blogs (Grubsheet Feejee and Croz Walsh’s Fiji) flattering  the military-backed regime after both wrote columns exposing the truth at USP. Edge obsessively blames the pair for his departure. The Marc Edge attacks continued on an anti-regime blog, Fiji Today’s Open Forum, which claims to support free speech, yet editor “Peter Firkin” gave Edge unparalleled “editing” rights to censor anything he didn’t like (claiming “defamation”).

*Attacks on media colleagues and other academics around the Pacific region with whom Edge clashed: “No one in the Fiji media wanted anything to do with him. He wrecked relationships built up by USP journalism over many years.”

*Misrepresenting media academics and journalists and their views in the region. And now the latest misrepresentation is on the nature of his demise at USP itself: “Marc sits in Canada rewriting the history of all of this for his own benefit,” one regional media critic notes. “He is creating both the vehicle (RA and Bruce Hill) and the narrative (blame Qorvis/Davis) to build his case that he was drummed out of Fiji for being a regime opponent. He will quote all of this to add lustre and a veneer of believability to whatever account he eventually writes.”

Marc Edge insists Fiji media research will remain an “interest of mine wherever I wind up teaching next – and I have ideas for several journal articles, not to mention the promised book, which will be titled Fiji Media Wars: The Story of a Blog”. But Café Pacific suggests USP’s recent Media Freedom video will probably be more useful – and far more credible.

Photo: ME’s website

MARC EDGE HITS BACK:

Pacific Media Puppetmaster

I was somewhat surprised to see David Robie stick his head above the parapet the other day to take some shots at me. That’s not normally his style. Robie can usually be found behind the curtain, throwing levers, pushing people’s buttons and pulling their strings. But I have noticed his fingerprints all over the smear campaign that has been ongoing against me since I dared to disagree with his pronouncement (and that of Graham Davis) that the PINA conference last March brought peace to Pacific media. Make no mistake, Robie is the third leg of the Fiji regime’s propaganda stool that is more publicly presented by bloggers Davis and Crosbie Walsh. Robie’s support for the repression the military dictatorship has inflicted on the country’s news media is longstanding and central to justifying the current regime’s tight control. In fact, his 2001 “Coup coup land” theory was the very justification for the draconian 2010 Media Decree that provides fines and even prison sentences for journalists. This theory is that the Fiji news media, specifically the Fiji Times, were responsible for the 2000 coup because of their unremitting criticism of the government of the day. They thus cannot be trusted with freedom and must be subject to statutory regulation as in the Media Decree. My reading of the record suggests instead that the Times was practising good solid journalism in most instances in holding the government to account. The 2000 coup and other coups are instead attributable, from what I can see, to the overbearing presence of the military and the lack of any rule of law in Fiji. Robie has been pushing government-friendly alternatives to press freedom in Fiji and elsewhere in the South Pacific, namely “development” journalism, which sees media working in partnership with government to encourage development, and “peace” journalism, which envisions media proactively proposing solutions to conflict in society rather than merely reporting events neutrally. I prefer “watchdog” journalism that holds powerful institutions to account, especially governments.

The one thing Robie cannot stand is anyone disagreeing with him. He is, after all, the King of Pacific Journalism. Dissenters and especially outsiders such as myself are subject to denigration, discrediting, and worse. In my case, far from descending to do the deed himself, Robie has let his students and paid henchmen for Qorvis do most of the dirty work in attacking me. In the wake of my interview with Radio Australia last April that questioned the “Pacific media at peace” narrative, his recent Master’s graduate Thakur Ranjit Singh got first crack with a scathing column in the Fiji Sun.

Perhaps Dr Edge needs to take a lecture from Professor David Robie, head of Pacific Media Centre and former head of journalism at USP, on peace journalism, on better understanding of press in the Pacific, non-suitability of western-style conflict journalism in Fiji and how to utilise the potential capability of USP’s journalism school. Dr Edge’s assertion that a form of development communication was not suitable for Fiji shows his lack of depth about underlying media problems in Fiji and the Pacific.

I had mentioned to David at the PINA conference how interesting I found Singh’s thesis blaming the 2000 coup on the Fiji Times, but I also told him I found it terribly one-sided and biased. Upon reading Singh’s insulting attack on me, I felt moved to go public with my misgivings over his scholarship. That drew a defence from Robie, who as I recall privately agreed with my observations about Singh’s admitted bias. “Mr Singh was examined robustly by three external examiners with expert knowledge of Fiji media and coups,” wrote Robie in a letter to the Sun defending AUT scholarship publicly. “Dr Edge does not qualify in this category.” Perhaps not, but I can read, and Singh clearly states his purpose on page 3 of his thesis: “No in-depth study through a systematic content analysis had been done to substantiate the allegations that have been made by Chaudhry and his supporters and repeated by various academics and politicians since initially postulated through MLP by Robie.” He sets out that his goal is to substantiate the allegations made by deposed prime minister Mahendra Chaudry, and promoted by his professor, that the Fiji Times was to blame for the 2000 coup. Setting out to prove pre-conceived notions is not supposed to be the goal of scholarship, which is instead supposed to be a process of neutral inquiry.

After that, Robie could barely even mention my name on his blog Café Pacific, instead referring to me only as “one Canadian media educator” in an entry of May 12. Café Pacific and AUT’s Pacific Media Centre websites regularly reprint attacks on regime critics by Australian “journalist” Graham Davis, who admitted in September that he is a paid propagandist for U.S. public relations firm Qorvis Communications, which is under contract for US$1 million a year to promote the Fiji junta. Davis, who hounded me relentlessly on his blog and in the Fiji Sun due to my advocacy for press freedom in Fiji, criticised a certain gathering I organised in September which was designed to explore issues of media and democracy in the South Pacific. Davis dubbed it “Edgefest.” Robie found the attack by Davis, which was reprinted across a full page of the next day’s full-page Fiji Sun, to be the most cogent coverage of the event.

The most insightful preliminary article was actually an offshore blog column on Grubsheet by Fiji-born journalist Graham Davis who wasn’t actually even there (and should have been invited). While this mainly dealt with behind-the-scenes tensions leading into the conference, it at least raised some of the core philosophical issues facing the future of  regional media.

The next attack on me soon came from a tag team made up of two of Robie’s students. After the September event, they went public with their disaffection for me in reports which were published in successive editions of the Fiji Sun one weekend. Master’s student Alex Perottet quoted someone reminding me at this event that there had been great achievements in the past. “It is not year zero, and you need to understand the local context … If you come with the wrong attitude you put a lot of people off, and then it’s a very bad start.” PhD student Rukhsana Aslam wrote a bizarre column which basically screamed “my professor is better than your professor.” She saw the difference as a matter of cultural assimilation. “Mostly, foreign journalists enter a new and troubled country with a pre-set mind that already has the division of ‘me vs them.’ They are there to tell the world how the local communities are falling short of the ‘Westernised’ ideals of democracy, human rights, tolerance.”

Or they are, like Dr Marc Edge . . . working to “raise the standards to an international level”. They may sympathise or even empathise with the locals but always from a distance – they never connect, never become one with them. In order to be accepted by the people, one needs to belong to them. In turn they are owned by people. One example is Professor David Robie, a Kiwi journalist-turned-academic, who is professor in the School of Communication Studies at AUT University and director of the Pacific Media Centre. He has been referred to by many Pacific Islanders as being “one of us”. Not only because he understands the complexities of socio-political context of the Pacific countries, but because of the way has he identified himself with their people.

Of course, my mistake was to suggest in the first place that journalism standards in the Pacific could possibly be raised. That might mean that the Great Professor of Journalism hadn’t been doing his job very well over the years. No wonder he reacted the way he did, reminding all present how great things were when he was there, and even when he was in Papua New Guinea. That’s what any discussion of Pacific journalism always turns into when Robie is involved. Others might as well not even exist. I noticed that I quickly became a non-person as far as AUT was concerned. Like this story, which I actually sent out to the media. By the time it got picked up by PMC, I was nowhere to be found and instead the story got around to, as usual, how great things used to be under Robie. Or how about just last week, when I broke a bit of a scoop in the form of the Ghai commission’s outside report on Fiji’s Media Decree, which predicted it would result in propaganda and self-censorship by journalists. PMC just picked it up uncredited, downplayed the criticisms in the report, and even downloaded it and posted it on their own website. It doesn’t take too long to figure out the bias of regional media outlets. PMC is obviously pro-regime, as is Robie. Just last week PMC was full of stories about how great things were in Fiji’s media, like this one, and this one. I should have known that Robie was back to pimping the dictatorship when I read this last week.

But I’m glad that David has come out from behind his curtain and stuck his head above the parapet. When he starts taking shots at other people he will have to start defending his own actions. And he has a lot to answer for.

Photo: Cafe Pacific

ROBIE’S CAFE PACIFIC WEBSITE COUNTER-PUNCHES:

Marc Edge and his Fiji smear campaign

HARDLY SURPRISING that Dr Marc Edge, described in the Canadian news blog The Tyee as a journalism “professor” which he was certainly not in Fiji, should switch his smear blowtorch to Café Pacific publisher David Robie. Attack anybody to avoid being responsible for his own demise at the University of the South Pacific. With a quicklink to this blog’s article on Fiji Today, Edge added an introductory comment alleging:
Robie has been behind the smear campaign from the start and supports media repression in Fiji.
Robie replies:
This laughable, paranoid and dishonest statement by Marc Edge is an example of why he has been such a joke in Pacific media education circles. For the record I have not been involved in any “smear campaign”, but I have certainly been campaigning on Pacific media freedom issues for more than the past two decades or so and I have been opposed to all military regimes. Being founding co-convenor of Pacific Media Watch in 1996; author of several books, including Mekim Nius on Pacific media politics in 2004; and co-author of the Pacific’s first regional media freedom report in 2011 are just among the many outputs. What has he contributed to the region other than being an armchair bleater?

DAVID ROBIE HIMSELF RETURNS TO THE FRAY:

Marc Edge and the ‘Pacific media puppetmaster’

A POSTING from Marc Edge to Café Pacific. Marc who? Oh, the Canadian guy who recently headed the University of the South Pacific journalism programme and who self-destructed mid-way through his contract. And now he publishes the vengeful blog Fiji Media Bores (Wars). This is what he says in response to the Café Pacific article:

It will be obvious to all with the posting of this entry exactly what side David Robie is on. If I had any illusions that this comment would be posted (Robie controls comments closely) [A LIE] I would go on and on about how Robie has been not just complicit but a driving force in the smear campaign against me [ANOTHER LIE]. There are several reasons for this, from what I can tell. He couldn’t stand the fact there was a media scholar in the region of equal or greater standing to himself who didn’t assign his textbook [NARCISSISM] . He couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t submit articles to his B-ranked journal [ANOTHER LIE]. But most of all, he didn’t like anyone contradicting his theory that Fiji media have been to blame for the country’s endless coups (instead the lack of rule of law is) and his support for media suppression there [YET ANOTHER LIE]. I was going to save this for the book, David. I had a whole chapter mapped out — Pacific Media Puppetmaster. Now I guess I’ll have to blog about it. Your choice.

Marc, sour grapes. Café Pacific says if you paid more attention to running a journalism programme and developing student journalists instead of indulging in conspiracy theories, paranoia, misrepresentations and bitterly attacking journalists, media academics and students around the region, you might have lasted the distance. Your smear allegation is untrue, along with the rest of your puerile claims – and just further laughable evidence of your credibility problem.

Marc’s cheap shot characterisation of David Robie’s media philosophy is distorted and wrong. Anybody interested in his actual views on “coups, media and human rights” should read this or watch this video. This blog is dedicated to media freedom and watchdog journalism and it has always been opposed to all coups and military-backed regimes in Fiji. Real journalists write about issues, not indulge in petty and nasty personal attacks, which comprise the bulk of Edge’s blog content.

Photo: ME’s website

MARC EDGE LETS FLY AGAIN:

Could I even stoop that low?

As a long-time journalist and now a scholar, I am used to basing my articles on solid quotes. Scholars like to quote from published sources and quote verbatim. As a blogger and online journalist, it is nice to be able to provide a link to the source of the quote so that readers can read the whole thing and decide if it backs up what I am saying or whether I am instead misconstruing it or quoting something out of context. But I am not sure I could bring myself to descend as low as some Pacific journalists and, sad to say, media scholars have recently. We have already established that the journalism standards of Graham Davis are very low. Davis seems content to quote a single anonymous source in a full-page smear job, as he did with Yash Ghai. One of Grubby’s favorite tactics is to solicit defamation by email and then publish it anonymously. We shouldn’t be surprised that a gutter journalist like Davis stoops this low. What is surprising is that one of the region’s supposedly foremost (maybe fivemost) media scholars apparently subscribes to the same low standards. I refer, of course, to David Robie’s attack on me yesterday. This assault was unprovoked by me and was prompted, from what I can tell, by my blog entries of recent weeks shining some light on the Fiji regime’s propaganda efforts. Why the esteemed Professor Robie would object to that, I am not quite sure, but apparently he does not approve. He seems to suspect an ulterior motive on my part and solicited one or more of his correspondents to get to the bottom of it. One of the complaints he came up with was that apparently I like to think that I know what I’m talking about. Quoth one correspondent: “Colleagues said he came to Fiji with a ‘superior attitude’ and [was someone] who believed he ‘knew better than the locals’.” Well, I am sorry about that superior attitude of mine. Bad habit. I’ll try working on that. It has been mentioned before. Here’s something else that might seem like a valid criticism.
“He claims to be standing for media freedom and democracy,” said one Fiji media insider in an email to Café Pacific. “Looks like he doesn’t understand terms. Or is he a hypocrite pretending to fight for media freedom while using the MDA [Media Development Authority] when it suits him?”
The reference here is to my complaint to the Media Authority over the execrable treatment I was subjected to by Legend FM last September. This was at the height of the smear campaign against me. I had dared to state publicly what several others were saying, which is that the Fiji media were obviously practising self-censorship due to uncertainty over how the Media Decree will be applied. It is true that there are things about the Media Decree that I don’t like, such as the six-figure fines and two-year prison sentences it provides for journalists. But there are also some things I like about it, including the limits it puts on foreign ownership and cross-ownership of Fiji media. I think that its Code of Conduct for journalists could be a positive feature if it encourages media responsibility, which of course is the necessary flip side of media freedom. And all I’m asking for is a correction and an apology. But the biggest complaint Robie and his chorus seem to have is that I am somehow making all this fuss, such as in my recent interview with Radio Australia, to bolster my claim that I was run out of Fiji by the regime and its propaganda machine.

Marc sits in Canada rewriting the history of all of this for his own benefit,” one regional media critic notes. “He is creating both the vehicle (RA and Bruce Hill) and the narrative (blame Qorvis/Davis) to build his case that he was drummed out of Fiji for being a regime opponent. He will quote all of this to add lustre and a veneer of believability to whatever account he eventually writes.”

Well, I can only assure you that the reason I left Fiji was indeed the escalating number of complaints by the regime over this blog, which put both my work permit and my safety in jeopardy, according to credible information that reached my ears. There is a concerted attempt to suggest otherwise on the part of people like Professor Robie and Grubby Davis (I just hope they don’t sic WhaleOil on me), but this fiction has to be wearing thin by now given the obvious nature of the smear campaign that has been conducted against me by them and others. They somehow seem to think that they can counter my arguments by attacking me personally. Who knows, maybe it’ll work. But I got to thinking today that maybe I should follow their lead and publish on this blog some of the nasty things that people tell me about them. Could I stoop that low? It would be difficult for someone who has always tried to adhere to high ethical standards in journalism for 40 years now. I could probably do it, but I’m not sure how good I’d feel about it. Maybe I should just try it once and see how it goes. After all, they’re doing it to me. What’s sauce for the goose, etc. OK, here goes. I have been sent a number of sympathetic emails since the smear campaign began last April. They come from those who have been subjected to the same kind of treatment by the same scoundrels. Let’s leave Grubby Davis aside for a moment, because that would be kinda like piling on. Here is what one regional journalst had to say about David Robie.

When he was in PNG at the Uni he used the newspaper there, Wan Solwara, as a huge promotional tool for himself. Each issue had up to five photos of Robie with students doing this or that. He had his own column and students were encouraged to write about him. One student assignment he ran in the student newspaper that really cracked me up was as essay on how there had been two great Western journalists – Pilger and Burchett. . . . Joining this hugely admirable select group of great journalists, according to Robie’s student in this essay in the student newspaper, was none other than David Robie for his marvellous work in the Pacific.

Hmmm. I don’t know. I don’t feel so good. I feel . . . dirty. I need to have a shower.

THEN CAFE PACIFIC QUOTES AN ANONYMOUS SOURCE FROM WITHIN USP:

Marc Edge, ‘international standards’ and the neo-colonial disaster that hit USP journalism

IN RESPONSE to this blog’s “Vendetta journalism” article and ousted former head of journalism Dr Marc Edge’s attack on David Robie, Café Pacific has received this anonymous feedback from inside sources, including staff and senior students, at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus in Fiji:

FEEDBACK: No journalism lecturer in USP journalism’s 25-year history had racked up as many complaints as Dr Marc Edge did – and in record time. Now, he is desperately looking for scapegoats in an attempt to salvage a tarnished academic reputation and failed USP tenure, and lashing out at his perceived enemies.

After his antics at USP, only a very “brave” university would want to touch Marc Edge, although it seems that normally he is on his best behaviour while working at developed world universities; it is in developing countries that he develops a superior, know it all, colonial attitude, which made him a laughing stock at USP.

Many at USP regarded Marc as a caricature of colonial attitudes.  He made a lot of noise, created a lot of controversies and spent too much time on these. It was taking time away from teaching and affecting the students. This not only carried on for months, it only got worse. It was one of the reasons why he was asked to resign.

Marc was unique as a lecturer at USP in that he tried to ban a student from entering campus, another two from enrolling in journalism courses, and screamed loudly at yet another student. USP received these complaints and was concerned as it exposed the institution to possible litigation.

Marc also made it very clear he did not like his second and third-year students, who had been taught by his predecessors. He often ridiculed these students’ abilities in his first-year class. This often drew nervous laughter.  One of the first year students confided that she found it really distasteful. It led to a major split between first year students and their second and third-year counterparts.

The rift, like other issues at USP journalism, only worsened over time. Marc was seen as being responsible for it. He was also suspected of cultivating the split between students.

He was actually heard commenting that he couldn’t wait to “see the back of” second and third year students. He made the comment deliberately within earshot of a third-year student. Students discussed his comments and found it really demoralising. This type of pettiness, childishness, immaturity and unprofessionalism did not inspire confidence in students and fellow staff.  It was another reason for his eventual downfall.

Certain staff in other departments, including expatriate staff, were angered by Marc’s attitude. They said he would have never dared to do what he did at USP at a Canadian university. Somehow he thought he could get away with it in Fiji, not knowing he was digging his own grave.

His lack of experience in the Pacific was also seen as his downfall. USP staff whispered that Marc never got over his culture shock.

For all his talk about international standards, Marc’s tenure was marked by dysfunction, quarrels with staff and students, running down of former USP journalism staff, and humiliating of students who disagreed with him in front of their peers. This was all very litigious, and as the world got to know about what he was doing behind closed USP journalism doors, the concerns grew.

Yet USP was patient and left it to the head of school, Professor Sudesh Mishra, to sort things out, but even he did not prove very effective. He was dealing with Marc Edge after all.

To USP staff, Marc came across as someone inexperienced and insecure, trying too hard to overcompensate and prove himself.

Despite all the talk about international standards, basic things were falling apart in the programme. Overall organisation was poor and tardy, and leadership was badly lacking. Students complained about poorly set and marked assignments, assignments not being handed back on time, too many changes to assignments midway through etc.

International standards aside, under Marc, USP journalism could not even carry out these basic teaching tasks properly.

As one student said, the “best Christmas gift we got was Marc Edge’s ‘resignation’.”

AND DAVID ROBIE DELIVERS A KILLER PUNCH – BRANDING MARC EDGE A LIAR.

Photo: Cafe Pacific

The lies of Marc Edge, ‘counterpropagandist’

 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN once said that “half a truth is often a great lie”, but in the past few weeks the blog Fiji Media Wars has been treating readers to a steady smear campaign. Café Pacific publishes here a statement by journalist and media educator David Robie:
Canadian Marc Edge projects himself as a dispassionate scholar. In fact, he is a polemicist and “counterpropagandist” – as he admits proudly on his website – who has regularly used his position at a Pacific university over the past year and since to peddle self-serving disinformation. For those who wondered why I was departing from the usual editorial line of Café Pacific to make a rare personal public condemnation with my “Vendetta journalism” article last Wednesday, the answer is quite simple: To make the truth known.
When I heard Dr Marc Edge’s distortions on his Radio Australia interview late last month blaming Fiji’s military backed regime as the sole cause of his demise at the University of the South Pacific, I decided I could no longer remain silent. In my capacity as a regional journalism educator and journalist, I had the misfortune to cross paths with Marc Edge several times and over varied projects over several months at his university last year. I quickly learned he had his own personal agenda and little of it was to do with the truth or journalism education. In fact, I am now convinced that he never had the welfare of students or the USP journalism programme at heart. He merely wanted to use USP as a pawn in gathering fodder for his proposed “Fiji Media Wars” blog book to trash Fiji and portray himself as a media freedom “hero”. It backfired.
After his misrepresentations and lies in the wake of his disastrous Media and Democracy in the South Pacific conference that he organised last September, I decided to break off any connection with him. Due to his insecurities, his paranoid modus operandi is to run smear attacks against anybody he perceives as an enemy or as competition.  Eleven of the last 12 postings on his blog Fiji Media Wars have been devoted to personal attacks on individuals.

I was particularly disturbed by his repeated misrepresentations of my own views relating to global comparative journalism strategies, such as critical development journalism, deliberative journalism and peace journalism. It is my task with one of the courses I teach at AUT’s School of Communication Studies to research and explore comparative journalism models. Clearly, Marc Edge is not even familiar with the literature, let alone to even engage with me on the same page.

He has made false claims about my views and yet never had a professional or theoretical discussion or debate with me. Such a closed mind is dangerous for a university, which should be about ideas and innovation.

For somebody who threatens others with legal action, he is astonishingly reckless with failing to establish facts. Among the many defamatory lies and distortions he has served up about me in his Fiji Media Wars blog in the past few days are:

1.    “This assault [my article] was unprovoked by me [Marc Edge].”

FACT: Marc Edge had been harassing me and some of my students for weeks (including one who had lodged a formal complaint with USP) before he was dumped, even falsely accusing me of waging a “vendetta” against him.

… David has now enlisted his students in his apparent vendetta against me. Alex and Rukhsana Aslam both had full-page op-ed articles that were critical of me [Dr Edge] published in the Fiji Sun … [Extract from paranoid letter sent to AUT, Oct 5, 2012]

2.    “Make no mistake, Robie is the third leg of the Fiji regime’s propaganda stool that is more publicly presented by bloggers [Graham] Davis and Crosbie Walsh.

FACT: I have always been an independent journalist and media educator and my mission includes to “balance” the propaganda and disinformation of media people like Marc Edge, who is new to the Pacific, naive and acts if he is an instant expert.

3.    Robie’s support for the repression the military dictatorship has inflicted on the country’s news media is longstanding and central to justifying the current regime’s tight control. 

FACT: I have been an opponent and critic of Fiji coups and military dictatorship since 1987 – more than two decades before Edge even set foot in Fiji – and my book Blood on their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific was a denunciation of both military repression and ethno-nationalism in Fiji. Unlike Edge, as well as reporting on the earlier coups, I lived in Fiji for five years and experienced the 2000 George Speight coup and political aftermath as an educator at first hand.

4.    In fact, his 2001 “Coup coup land” theory was the very justification for the draconian 2010 Media Decree that provides fines and even prison sentences for journalists.

FACT: This article in Asia Pacific Media Educator was not a “theory”, it was a widely referenced and cited peer-reviewed preliminary exploratory paper about the George Speight coup and media coverage. It has led to many independent serious academic studies at different universities since then that have borne out my findings. In addition, I was among some 26 individuals and organisations that provided submissions to the independent and self-regulatory Fiji Media Council Review in 2009. Nevertheless, the regime ignored the constructive Review recommendations and imposed its own repressive law. I have never had anything to do with the draconian decree but I have written many papers condemning and critiquing it. The Pacific Media Watch project that I was co-founder of in 1996 has been dedicated to media freedom in Fiji and the region.

5.    “Robie has been pushing government-friendly alternatives to press freedom in Fiji and elsewhere in the South Pacific, namely “development” journalism, which sees media working in partnership with government to encourage development, and “peace” journalism, which envisions media proactively proposing solutions to conflict in society rather than merely reporting events neutrally.

FACT: As part of my “comparative journalism studies” course, I have explored varying models of journalism and none of them are “government friendly alternatives”. There are several different notions of “development journalism” and Marc Edge seems to have no familiarity with this complexity – he constantly trots out a discredited Western-defined version. I do not, and have never, advocated “working in partnership” with governments, except for collaboration in defined areas such as climate change, and only in a democratic framework devoid of censorship or media persecution. Instead, I have argued for critical development journalism (a style of robust investigative journalism seeking solutions) and deliberative journalism (a more democratic form of journalism). A quick excerpt from this fullpage article of mine in The Fiji Times on September 13:

Deliberative journalism involves empowerment, often a subversive concept in conservative societies. It involves providing information that enables people to make choices for change.

Deliberative models include notions such as public journalism, critical development journalism, peace journalism and even human rights journalism.

Development journalism in a nutshell is about going beyond the “who, what, when, where” of basic inverted pyramid journalism; it is usually more concerned with the “how, why” and “what now” questions addressed by journalists. Some simply describe it as “good journalism” with greater context.

Read the fuller version of the article here. An academic article is in publication.

The notion of peace journalism is actually a very positive approach, especially in countries where social and ethnic conflict has been long-standing and is a form of journalism that addresses the root cause of the problems, not just a surface compromise. Leading global journalists and academics advocating this approach include Associate Professor Jake Lynch, director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace Studies, who was a keynote speaker at a conference at USP about the strategy.

None of these are necessarily substitutes for “watchdog” journalism holding powerful institutions to account, they are additional tools well-suited to the complexities of the times and communities we live in. And media corporations and companies are themselves among these “powerful institutions” that need to be held to account. However, the failures of watchdog journalism itself and media credibility are under serious scrutiny as part of the global journalism crisis – the News of the World phone-hacking scandal backlash is an example of this.

Part of the problem in Fiji is that there is little “neutral” journalism in the country. Six years of censorship and self-censorship have seen to that. But much of the reporting about Fiji in Australia and NZ is also biased. It often takes independent external media organisations such as Al Jazeera to provide a better balance.

6.    “PMC is obviously pro-regime … ” 

FACT: The Pacific Media Centre is an independent research, publication and media resource centre at AUT University and governed by an advisory board and is part of the Communication Studies school. It does not have any political line, but seeks to publish a wider range of articles about Asia-Pacific media and socio-political issues than are usually available in New Zealand-based media. Marc Edge has never visited the PMC, or even this university for that matter, and his ignorance about PMC is astounding for an academic.

The objectives of the PMC can be viewed here in this 5min video on YouTube. The PMC’s mission is also on public record here.

Ironically, while Marc Edge falsely accuses me of support for the regime’s media policy and repression it is actually he who is “collaborating” with the Media Decree; he currently has a complaint against a Fiji media organisation before the Media Tribunal – using the very instruments of media persecution imposed by the regime. Hypocrisy in other words.

In the words of one of Marc Edge’s former students, one of the many victimised during his USP “dictatorship” era, Magalie Tingal, from Radio Djiido in New Caledonia, it is time for him to move on and get a “get a real job” and let us in the Pacific get on with ours in peace.

THEN, TWO PACIFIC MEDIA PARIAHS STUMBLE INTO EACH OTHER’S ARMS: USP BULLY MARC EDGE AND THE SAMOAN RACIST THUG TUPUOLA TERRY TAVITA.

From: Marc Edge <marcedge@hotmail.com>
To: mediafreedom@googlegroups.com
Sent: Monday, February 4, 2013 2:49 PM
Subject: RE: [PFF] This piece of shiet Dr David Robie on USP saga

Perhaps you haven’t seen the latest, Terry.

http://cafepacific.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-lies-of-marc-edge.html

It’s not enough that they hounded me out of Fiji. They seem to think that they can intimidate me into silence by spreading all sorts of malicious gossip about me. I can assure you that their actions will have exactly the opposite of the desired effect. I believe that I have just found my life’s work. . . .

Date: Mon, 4 Feb 2013 14:12:00 -0800
From: terrytavita@yahoo.com
Subject: [PFF] This piece of shiet Dr David Robie on USP saga
To: mediafreedom@googlegroups.com

I wouldn’t be surprised if his buddy Graham Davies wrote this rubbish..

TRULY AN ALLIANCE OF THE DAMNED. MORE BLOWS AS THEY’RE LANDED…..