Asia Pacific Network: 1 May 2005
GRAFT THREATENS TO DEVOUR SCRIBES
Lack of training and low wages are threatening the autonomy of journalists in Fiji, New Zealand media educator David Robie has warned.
Review by SUDESH KISSUN, of Indian newslink
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AUCKLAND: Lack of training and low wages are threatening the autonomy of journalists in Fiji, a New Zealand media educator has warned.
Auckland University of Technology journalism associate professor David Robie says unless these issues are addressed properly, journalists in Fiji could become part of the corruption problem instead of the solution.
His comments form a part of his recent book, Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media, Politics and Education, launched in New Zealand.
The book highlights how tradition and culture proscribed journalists from reporting openly and fairly.
Its release coincided with controversy over the release of high chiefs jailed for their involvement in the May 2000 attempted coup by George Speight.
Dr Robie used the findings of a survey of 106 journalists in 13 news organisations in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 2001 and compared them with a 1998 study.
Fiji journalists have less training and lack journalism qualifications, but are better paid, compared with their PNG counterparts, he says.
However, wages and salaries for journalists in both countries are poor with almost half of surveyed Fiji journalists being paid $10,000 a year or less.
Most highly educated journalists in the world are in the US (94% with professional degrees) but more than two-thirds of New Zealand and Australian journalists have some level of tertiary education, not necessarily degrees, Dr Robie says.
Fijian journalists interviewed for the book said questioning authority went against their traditional values.
Many had spoken of a culture of conservatism in traditional Pacific societies but this does not augur well for the Fourth Estate.
Those in the lower ranks do not question their superiors, especially in chiefly societies. In exposing abuses of power and corruption, journalists are often viewed as troublemakers who create problems to which people would ordinarily turn a blind eye, Dr Robie says.
He says publication of his book Mekim Nius allows him to share his findings with journalists, the media and the society but admitts one book will not supply all the solutions needed.
But he hopes it will trigger a debate.
* Mekim Nius: South Pacific Media, Politics and Education, by David Robie, published by the USP Book Centre, Fiji, US$20