Fiji signals it may switch Radio Australia back on | Pacific Beat

Fiji signals it may switch Radio Australia back on

Fiji signals it may switch Radio Australia back on

Updated 29 February 2012, 5:45 AEDT

Fiji's coup installed military government has signalled it is looking at allowing Radio Australia to broadcast inside the country again.

Power to the two transmitters, one in Nadi and the other in Suva, was switched off by the interim government in 2009, three years after the 2006 coup led by military commander Frank Bainimarama.

But Fiji's permanent secretary of information, Sharon Smith Johns told Pacific Beat's Geraldine Coutts this morning that she is looking at reversing the policy.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speakers: Geraldine Coutts; Fiji's permanent secretary of information, Sharon Smith Johns; Radio Australia CEO Mike McCluskey

COUTTS: Fiji's working on its image. Any news on when Nadi and Fiji, Radio Australia's transmitters will come back online?

SMITH-JOHNS: Well look, I want you to come back online, because I have to listen to you through the internet. I have spoken, we are looking at that currently and we would welcome having you back on our air waves and I will continue to follow that up for you Geraldine, and to make sure that we can get you back on over here.

HILL: That statement has been welcomed by Radio Australia's CEO, Mike McCluskey. He says the station won't be making any news coverage of Fiji in exchange for getting the Nadi and Suva transmitters back on.

McCLUSKEY: I would and Radio Australia would welcome any opportunity to have consideration for our Nadi and Suva transmitters to be switched back on.

HILL: How long have they been switched off for?

McCLUSKEY: Since 2009.

HILL: So they were actually on and Radio Australia was broadcasting into Fiji for three or four years after the coup?

McCLUSKEY: Yes that's right, and we would hope that the indication is that the treatment that we gave to every subject, following ABC editorial policies and our code of practice was as good back then as it is now and as it will be into the future.

HILL: The Fiji government has complained about the treatment they've received at the hands of the outside media in Australia and New Zealand and Radio Australia's been no exception. Has Radio Australia strayed outside the boundaries of journalism and as the Fiji interim government would say attacked them unnecessarily, simply put out a false view of the government?

McCLUSKEY: Radio Australia, like all other aspects of the ABC has to be accountable to our own standards and to the standards of very good journalism, balanced journalism. We have a code of practice, we have editorial policies to that effect, we have to be accountable to those editorial policies and people have every right to make sure that we are accountable to those policies and to that code of practice.

HILL: Radio Australia has put out some pretty negative stories about the Fiji interim government though, haven't we?

McCLUSKEY: Radio Australia's put out balanced coverage, giving all sides opportunity to have their say. I think right across the Pacific, we can see that journalists, such as yourself Bruce, Geraldine, all of the journalists that we have working for us are operating fairly, consistently, and to the balanced requirements that we have in our own editorial policies in our code of practice.

HILL: If the Fiji interim government said look, we're happy to switch you back on, but we just want you to sort of come to an arrangement with us about the way you cover us in terms of news. Would that be something that you'd enter into or not?

McCLUSKEY: No, because the ABC already has arrangements in place to ensure fairness and accountability. We have the arrangements of our code of practice, we have the arrangements of our editorial policies.

HILL: If the Fiji interim government did decide that Radio Australia could start its transmitters in Nadi and Suva again. What physical state is it in? How soon do we get them back and running?

McCLUSKEY: Eh, I've just been speaking to Joe, one of our broadcast engineers. We don't know the answer to that question. What we do know is that those transmitters were state-of-the-art in 2009, they were exceptionally good transmitters and we believe that there's no reason why they can't continue to be exceptionally good transmitters and we believe should and I hope that this will happen. The Fijian government gives us the opportunity to turn them back on very, very soon, then we can get them up and running very quickly.

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