Veteran Pacific reporter questions impact of new MIDA body | Pacific Beat

Veteran Pacific reporter questions impact of new MIDA body

Veteran Pacific reporter questions impact of new MIDA body

Updated 26 March 2014, 19:07 AEDT

One of the first foreign journalists to be expelled from Fiji by the Bainimarama Regime was Fairfax's New Zealand based Pacific Correspondent Michael Field.

He's continued to report on events there, and is also one of the reporters whose name was raised when Mr Raj was asked about further bans on travel there. He's also been looking at what has been announced by the MIDA

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Michael Field, Fairfax New Zealand's Pacific Correspondent

HILL: Mr Field, what do you think about this Independent Media Monitoring Unit that they've announced?

FIELD: I think that Bruce, the whole thing is totally farcicle. What we're looking at now is a Fiji media seen that is so remote from any sort of concept of free and fair media, that it's, it's insulting to even try and offer any other suggestion that it is representative of open and fair democracy and media. It is a joke, this group, this MIDA group seems to be totally about control and dictation and order and you will stay out of this country, we're afraid of you, we've controlled the local media, the local media is totally compliant and foreign journalists can't be trusted.

This is a heroically brave concept from Rear Admiral Bainimarama and I just think it's farcicle.

HILL: They also mention they wanted to extend they're control over freelancers and journalists working in Fiji for overseas outlets. Why do you think they've decided to do that?

FIELD: Ah, simply because there are a small and sadly diminishing group of journalists in Fiji who are trying to offer what the rest of us in the planet regard as free and fair journalism and this is just obscene what they're doing. We're kind of seen in Fiji a kind of North Korean control.

I read, for example, that this group is opposed to the way in which these freelance journalists are talking about the dengue fever epidemic, because it apparently reflects poorly on Fiji and the tourist industry.

Well, I've got news for the media control officers of the Fiji government, mosquitoes can't tell.

HILL: Well, there wasn't just journalists that were mentioned in this press conference, there was also a complaint about a senior adviser at the Australian High Commission, so it was diplomat mentioned as well?

FIELD: Well, imagine, certainly it's of the Australian concept of they're advice to tourism, to tourists and tourists, is that they're fairly thorough about what they do and what they report and the simple fact of the matter is that Fiji has got a dengue fever epidemic. It's not a reflection on Voreque Bainamarama or any of his program of reform. It is simply a reflection on the fact that they had a medical problem. Many countries have that and people are entitled to know this simply because one of the ways you can defeat dengue is where insect repellent and would be nice to be told. But this fantasy crowd that's now carrying out the message of Bainimarama to the public is sort of simply saying that we've got to tell everybody rosy messages. It's a farce, there is no free media left in Fiji.

HILL: And yet there are many journalists in Fiji, working journalists there who would say and have said on some occasions, that it's journalists in outside Fiji that don't understand that this is they're new way now and that they're are good reasons for it. You and I and others simply don't understand the situation in Fiji?

FIELD: Ah, that is a cop out. Fiji journalists have simply failed, most of the Fiji journalists have failed. There are a small group of Fiji journalists who I could name who have heroically stuck over to the principles that have been developed over a long period of time. That most Fijian journalists are now totally compliant with what the Fiji Ministry of Information hands out. There is no dengue problem in Fiji. This is the new North Korean solution to the South Pacific.

HILL: Now, there were some signs at the PINA conference that they might letting some of the overseas journalists they banned back in. That seems to have gone by the by now. What's you're reaction on the obvious fact that you're ban is still going to be extended and others as well, TVNZ Barbara Dreaver, Sean Dorney from the ABC?

FIELD: The one I feel sorry for is Sean. Sean is a truly South Pacific man and he does not deserve this treatment. He has acted towards the people of the South Pacific with humility, with care, with compassion, and the Fiji journalists have dropped upon him horribly.

As for myself, I'm a little indifferent to it. If Rear Admiral Bainimarama is frightened of me, I'm terribly sorry, there's not a lot of other people in New Zealand and in the rest of the South Pacific that are frightened of me, but if Rear Admiral Bainimarama is frightened of me, so be it.

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Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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