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When the barking stopped: Censorship, self-censorship and spin in Fiji

Volume 19, Issue 1

May, 2013

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Hooper, Robert (2013). When the barking stopped: Censorship, self-censorship and spin in Fiji. Pacific Journalism Review, 19(1), 41-57.
Media and democracy in the Pacific
Author(s): Robert A. Hooper
Publication date: 
May, 2013

After four military coups in 20 years, Fiji is poised to return to democracy in elections promised for 2014.  An emergency decree placing censors in newsrooms was lifted in January 2012, but with domestic media gagged by lawsuits and Fiji Television threatened with closure for covering opposition figures, a pervasive climate of self-censorship imposed by government decrees is enforced by a government-appointed judiciary.  As elections draw closer, the illusion of press freedom is framed by highly paid American ‘spin doctors’ from a prominent Washington DC public relations and lobbying firm.  Paralysis in the newsroom is reflected at Fiji’s premier University of the South Pacific, once a leader in journalism education.  The author taught television journalism at the university and trained reporters for Fiji TV in the 1990s, but returned to find Fiji’s media and higher education in a crisis reflecting the decline of Western influence in the Pacific. Student grievances over harassment and expulsion in retaliation for independent reporting echo the deceit and dysfunction unfolding on the national stage.  As traditional allies Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States anguish over sanctions, unprecedented visits to the Fijian government by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and incoming Chinese Premier Xi Jinping portend diplomatic rivalry and raise the stakes for a fragile Pacific nation.

Caption: An interviewing workshop for Fiji Television journalists and staff. Image: Fiji TV staff