Tuesday, November 23, 2010

[pima.nius] FIJI: Opinion - Racist comments undermine media integrity

11:35 AM |



Title – 7088 FIJI: Opinion - Racist comments undermine media integrity
Date – 18 October 2010
Byline – Thakur Ranjit Singh
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Indian Newslink (NZ), 17/10/10
Copyright – IN
Status – Unabridged
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RACIST COMMENTS UNDERMINE MEDIA INTEGRITY
http://www.indiannewslink.co.nz/index.php/opinion/5024.html

By Thakur Ranjit Singh

AUCKLAND (Indian Newslink/Pacific Media Watch): A pertinent issue raised at the annual conference of the New Zealand-based Pacific Islands Media Association (PIMA) earlier this month appears to have rattled Prime Minister John Key.

Just four days later, on October 4 Paul Henry, on his popular, though at times controversial, TVNZ Breakfast programme repeated the issue. And this led to his resignation (see item pmw7060).        .

During a panel discussion on media standards at PIMA, I voiced my concern about the slowness of the "browning" of the mainstream New Zealand media newsrooms, saying that this failed to reflect the changing colour of the country.

Panellists, including New Zealand Herald reporter Vaimoana Tapaleao, Radio New Zealand Pacific affairs reporter Richard Pamatatau and Newstalk ZB newsreader Niva Retimanu concurred, emphasising the need for encouraging positive developments.

Verbal hypocrisy
It is the lack of diversity that tends to create stereotypes where the mainstream media like the New Zealand Herald still tend to call the New Zealand-born Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand as "Indian" or "Indo-Fijian" without ever referring to the Jewish ancestry of  Key.

This appears to be the case with TVNZ as well. Henry asked Key on his Breakfast programme on October 4 whether Sir Anand was a New Zealander and whether the prime minister would pick someone who "looked more like a New Zealander" next year.

What does it take for a "brown" person to become a New Zealander, and why is Sir Anand, who was born, raised, educated and served in New Zealand still an "Indian", "Indo-Fijian" or "Pacific" person, while Key is no longer a Jew but a New Zealander?

Do you need to be white or Anglo-Saxon to qualify as a New Zealander?

What does a "New Zealander" look like, anyway?

So long as the New Zealand media remains relatively "white", we will continue to get such blinkered views from journalists who only see things in the conservative black and white situations, as does Henry.

The future of better race relations in New Zealand hinges on better-informed, well-balanced, and diversified newsrooms with sensitivities for different ethnicities increasingly populating this nation.

'Fiji bashing'
The other contentious issue raised during this PIMA panel discussion was the accusation of "Fiji bashing" by organisations, including the Pacific Media Association (known as (PasiMA).

The issue of claims against Fiji by those media-owners, who have little understanding of Fiji, was also raised during the discussions.

In a recent speech in Vienna, Savea Sano Malifa, founder and owner of the Samoa Observer and the chairman of PasiMA, reportedly made some erroneous statements about Fiji without knowing the facts. Just like Auckland-based journalist Michael Field, who in his Swimming with Sharks book wrongly attributed tension in Fiji to a conflict "between the Polynesians and the Melanesians", Savea was wrong in attributing Fiji's problems to the poverty of indigenous people, compared to the wealth of the immigrants.

It would be interesting to know what Savea knows about Fiji. How can he classify me and my Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters as "immigrants"? They are as much immigrants to Fiji as Key and (former Prime Minister) Helen Clark are to New Zealand.

Further, how can people who own 90 percent of all Fiji's land be called poor?

Does Savea know the difference between the poorer Indo-Fijians and the rich business community in Fiji that gives a misconception of the rich Indians?

Lip service
It is because of such misinformation and ignorance with which some Pacific media treat Fiji that I raised the issue about media standards, especially from the owners of the media in the Pacific.

Tongan journalist and publisher Kalafi Moala had stated that the Fiji-based Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) was not doing anything regarding censorship in Fiji, which was why PasiMA was formed.

In that case, why did PINA adopt what can be described as "a pragmatic approach" to press control in Fiji.

In answer to a question whether he would comply with the censorship law, the new publisher of The Fiji Times, Dallas Swinstead, replied: "Well, with due respect that is a dumb question. Of course, I will. What is the point in having a newspaper shut down?"

Perhaps that is the answer PINA needs to give to PasiMA about its pragmatism.

* Thakur Ranjit Singh is a political commentator on Fiji issues and former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post. Email: thakurji@xtra.co.nz

* Comment on this item pmediawa@aut.ac.nz

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