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Don’t be fooled by PM’s apology – Fiji media freedom is dire

Dr Gavin Ellis
Dr Gavin Ellis is former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald. His career in journalism has spanned than 40 years

STAFF REPORTER | RNZ/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND - Media commentator Gavin Ellis, former editor of the New Zealand Herald, has condemned the state of media freedom in Fiji in the wake of the arrests and detention of three journalists from New Zealand.

He talked to Kathryn Ryan in his weekly RNZ media commentary about the apology of Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama over the police wrongfully detaining the journalists this week, claiming it rang hollow when it came from the man responsible for the dire state of media freedom in Fiji.

Ellis said New Zealand should take a “jaundiced view” of media freedom in that country and cited many instances of abuses of a free press since Bainimarama came to power in a military coup in 2006.

Although Bainimarama now headed an elected government, his administration had “consolidated” control over journalists by turning the military imposed media decree into the Media Industry Development Act.

Ellis cited Fiji’s Online Safety Act, which had been designed to deal with cyberbullying, but journalists feared could become a ‘trojan horse’ against the media.

He also praised the Pacific Media Centre for its research and publication on Fiji media issues, noting Sri Krishnamurthi’s reporting of last year’s general election and the media, and Fiji journalist Ricardo Morris’ Pacific Journalism Monograph report on Watching Our Words about self-censorship in Fiji.

Also, featured on the Ellis program this week, is an Australian academic, Dr Denis Muller writing in The Conversation, who attacked his country’s media for violations of media ethics in their coverage of the Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15.

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