Monday, April 20, 2009

With Freedom comes Responsibility

Professions such as lawyers, doctors and journalists have a "social contract" with society where society grants them a status of privilege, so to speak, in return for the professional conducting themselves ethically, honestly, fairly and to the highest standard.

 

Which is why there is such widespread indignation when we hear about a lawyer who abuses the trust funds entrusted to his/her care.  The people are shocked and demand answers.

 

Professions must always strive to maintain the highest standards in order to keep the "social contract" intact.

 

Journalists belong to one such profession, especially in a country such as ours, with over 300 islands and people living in remote areas, the news via the radio, newspapers and now the internet, is their way of being in touch, of knowing what is going on.

 

The freedom of the media to report freely must be maintained. Media censorship is a great disservice to our nation.

 

What must also be maintained is the "social contract' between the journalists and society.

 

A journalist's job is to report dispassionately, with balance and without resort to sensationalism. That's what most people would expect when they pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio. The person writing the article has done their research, obtained alternative views where there are dissenting positions, exercised their skill obtained through proper training and arrived at an article that adds to the body of knowledge available on a subject.

 

That in a nutshell is a journalist's job. And Loyal Fijian will defend that right to the end.

 

But if journalists start taking positions in a political debate as part of their job, is that journalism?

 

If a political leader wishes to issue a statement, they should have a right to do so. A journalist should obtain a copy, do their work and report on it. Not be the one drafting the statement and then use their position to publicise it.

 

If a political leader wishes to consult with his/her members they have a right to do so. A journalist could attend, stand at the back, do their work and report on it. Not be the ones running a campaign on the internet hiding behind silly pseudonyms and publishing content which are inciteful.

 

Another element to this debate has to be mentioned. Our friends from overseas.

 

Of course, they should be allowed in to report. Of course they have a right to raise their voice when poorly advised authorities impose restrictions on the media. Of course they must highlight incidents of harassment against their fellow journalists. They must do these and more.

 

But to take sides, to start up blog sites and report hearsay and innuendo hiding behind silly names. C'mon, that is doing journalists in Fiji and all over the world a great disservice.

 

The journos who are behind the blogs which are publishing posts of the nature highlighted in our last post are actually playing into the authorities hands. This is the time to maintain the standards, not throw the book out the window.

 

This LF contributor remembers reading an article which appeared in a prominent daily after the 2000 coups. A certain Mr Micheal Field, displaying his enormous knowledge and even greater foresight wrote in his article , the exact words escape me, but words to the effect of : " Men like Mr Chaudhry and Mr Qarase have been confined to the dustbins of history. The future of Fiji belongs to men like Lt Col. Filipo Taraikinikini."

 

And this man is an authority on Fiji.

1 comment:

Noob said...

Another very interesting blog. Your view that the anti-govt. blogs are being run by journalists has a lot of validity. One should also remember that there is another blog of a similar nature being run by a certain lawyer living in Townsville, QLD and he chooses to clamor about the life of people in Fiji safely from his home in the outback.

Journalists in Fiji have long assumed that their careers give them the right to play judge, jury and executioner. They lambast anyone who is helping the current govt. and they embarrass people trying to take the country forward by digging up their personal details. While those who choose to enter the fray of politics can expect the loss of their privacy to a certain degree, it is rather disgusting on the part of journalists to go around digging up dirt about people and ignore any good work done. One can assume that the saying “a speck of dirt blinds a person from seeing the rest of the world” holds true because it applies to the standards of journalism in Fiji.

Journalists in Fiji are always clamoring for their rights. What about the rights of the individuals they harass on a daily basis for their stories, all in the hope of winning the elusive journalist of the year award? Is this the key reason a journalist will dig up anything and everything about anyone who crosses them? Should such an abuse of power be allowed to go unchecked? The manner and methodologies employed by Fiji journalists is atrocious at its best. Journalists refuse to report facts and use interview transcripts in an extremely malicious manner. Facts are twisted to look sordid and people who are considered the bane of our society are often given the prominence of angels. Where has the balanced and fair reporting gone to? Since when does a journalist have the right to report what their view is instead of the facts as presented to them by their sources? Why do Fiji journalists insist media freedom is being hampered when the laws regarding media freedom in countries such as the USA are much more stringent and impose harsher penalties on journalists for the minutest of errors? The answer is obvious – journalists in Fiji know little or nothing about journalism. Their tact for reporting and asking the right questions are puerile at best. One of the best examples of this is a certain talk-back show held on FijiTV every Sunday. The questions asked and the obvious lack of moderation shown by the presenter is a testimony to the baseless journalism standards in Fiji. This particular presenter is a well known NFP supporter and it is also a known fact (particularly amongst the intelligence circle) that the questions posed by the presenter every Sunday are not thought up by him, but the NFP.

Based on the recent level of moderation imposed on the journalists this month, a number of people have commented that the people in Fiji are seeing some of the best works yet by the media outlets in Fiji. One can only wonder why this method was not employed eons ago as it would have brought about greater harmony amongst the people living here. Instead, the media outlets have continued to play the game of divide and rule by pitting Fijians against Indians through their articles, editorial comments and letters. This is a classic example of the dog obeying its master – in this case, the masters being the expatriate managers from countries such as Australia where everyone knows the history of the Aborigines and the white settlers.

Nonetheless, one should not assume that all journalists are bad. The certain skirt journalist being referred to on the anti-govt. sites is an appropriate example of fair reporting. This journalist attempted to produce material which was balanced and took the views of all parties into consideration – the conclusion? Her name is now being dragged through the mud and she is accused to playing the role of a mistress to a very senior officer of the defense forces. It is the classic example of the friction between the journalists in Fiji who choose to play the political game and those who truly believe in the sanctity of reporting the facts.

If journalism in Fiji is to regain its reputation, then the obvious answer is the Media Council needs to be changed. The people running the Media Council and the rules laid down in it are far too biased. As, Dr. James Anthony stated in his report regarding the media in Fiji, the Media Council is an all exclusive and elitist white man club made up of those who simply want to further their personal agendas. The current laws governing the Media Council protects the journalists to such a degree that anyone complaining against any media outlet is not only denied an audience (which is neutral) but also ridiculed by all the media outlets who are members of the Media Council, publicly in the dailies. Journalists need to become more realistic and realize that their jobs do not give them the right to assume they are untouchable. If anything, the Sword of Damocles, hangs on their heads more than on any other profession and as such, they need to ensure they uphold the virtues of journalism – fair and honest reporting without a shred of bias.