I was being far too generous in my assessment of the Fijian media last week in describing the Fiji Sun as a travesty of a newspaper. It is, in fact, a grotesque parody of a newspaper – a propaganda rag not only for the FijiFirst government but the Chinese Communist Party which the Fijian people can no longer trust and should boycott.
In the wake of the attack on a member of the Taiwanese Trade Office in Suva by two Chinese diplomats at Taiwan’s National Day, the Suva Embassy of the People’s Republic countered with the astonishing claim that it was their diplomats who, in fact, had been assaulted. The Chinese went to the Fijian police with that improbable account even though the Taiwanese representative suffered a head wound that had to be treated in hospital. As I said in the previous story, he obviously attacked the fists of the diplomats with his head.
Since the incident – first reported on Grubsheet – the Taiwanese Government has confirmed the story and as we’ve seen, it has been reported around the world in media outlets from the Washington Post to the Times of India. But it is a testament to the sorry state of the Fijian media – that I examined in detail last week – that only Vijay Narayan at Communications Fiji Limited/Fiji Village – has reported the story properly.
We know that the Fiji Sun is in a business relationship with the Chinese government in which it pays for the placement of Chinese Communist Party-approved stories in the Fiji Sun and trains young Fiji Sun journalists in China. But we now have proof of the corrupt nature of that relationship in the Sun’s coverage today of the violent Chinese attack on the Taiwanese representative at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Oct 8.
In keeping with its red banner, the Fiji Sun reports only the Chinese version of the story. It completely ignores the account given by the Taiwanese Government or the evidence of what actually happened, which is known to so many people in Suva that Grubsheet was able to learn of the story despite being in far-off Sydney, which is a sorry reflection on the Fijian media in itself.
The gravity of this wilful decision by the Fiji Sun to ignore the major element of the story and publish only the official Chinese account – ignoring the Taiwanese version altogether – clearly warrants being referred to the media watchdog – the Media Industry Development Authority. It is a case of Fijian media consumers being hoodwinked by a major media outlet in Fiji that takes money from the Chinese government. And it is also a classic case of corruption that ought to be referred to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corrupt (FICAC), except that it won’t be because, as we’ve also reported in the past, FICAC takes its instructions from the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who also controls the Fiji Sun.
There is more evidence of the AG’s secret relationship with the paper in the Fiji Sun today with yet another “analysis” piece by the AG’s personal journalistic handmaiden, Jyoti Pratibha, again attacking the AG’s political arch enemy, the National Federation Party leader, Biman Prasad, and accusing him of being a serial liar. As we’ve already reported, the Fiji Sun has surrendered its editorial columns to the AG at the same time as it takes money from the FijiFirst government in an exclusive advertising arrangement to the exclusion of the Sun’s competitor, the Fiji Times.
For its part, the Fiji Times carries the Chinese attack on the Taiwanese Trade Office official on its front page today but it is a relatively brief story that contains little of the detail that is already on the public record and that is appearing in media outlets around the world. Only Vijay Narayan on the CFL radio stations has even attempted to give this story the prominence it deserves, which is a shocking indictment of the two main papers.
The Fijian people deserve a lot better than this. Because as Grubsheet has explained, the attack by the Chinese on a foreign citizen of any nation on Fijian soil is a dangerous precedent that must not be allowed to stand. It is clear that the Chinese Communist Party has the Fiji Sun very much in its pocket and has enough influence to make the Fiji Times a lot more cautious in its own reporting. It constitutes a betrayal of the media’s duty in Fiji to report without fear or favour and uphold the public interest above all else.
I cannot think of a previous instance of dereliction of duty on this scale and with such an insidious dimension. The Fiji Sun’s action in toeing Beijing’s line is unforgivable, as is its action in siding with a brutal dictatorship against a vibrant democracy in Taiwan. Realpolitik and adherence to the “One China policy” is for governments but genuinely independent newspapers have a duty to side with ordinary people and the truth. Readers know what to do. Don’t buy the Fiji Sun. And educate yourself to be much more aware of the way in which you are being manipulated.
Fijians can also put pressure on CJ Patel – the owners of the Fiji Sun – that controls about 20 companies in 10 countries, including Australia, New Zealand and India. If CJ Patel refuses to bring the Fiji Sun to heel and support the transparency and accountability that ought to apply to any media organisation in a democracy, then consumers throughout the Asia Pacific region have the power to bring the entire group to heel with a boycott of CJ Patel-owned businesses.
Here’s a link to the CJ Patel website: