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Fiji political blogs: truth or slander?

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Since the 2006 coup, I have tried to chronicle the rapidly changing world of blogs in Fiji as they start up, shut down, climb to great heights, and then fall out of the spotlight. My comments even garnered some unwanted attention from the Human Rights Commission Director who, paradoxically for a human rights officer, seemed to be arguing against freedom of speech. While the interim government ended its public affairs assault on blogs some months ago, there are still intrigues to explore in Fiji's blogosphere.

In recent weeks, one of the top news stories in the Fiji press has been the mystery of the interim government minister who has been accused of tax evasion. The interim government and the police claim that this individual has been cleared of all wrong-doing and refuses to reveal his or her identity. At least one of Fiji's political blogs, however, has openly published the identity of the accused minister. Of course there is no proof. If there was concrete proof, the international press would certainly be publishing this name, even if the Fijian press practices self-censorship.

As I wrote over nine months ago,

Clearly, some of the remarks in Fiji's anonymous political blogs regarding members of the interim government are libelous. Fiji's Defamation Act and supporting Common Law allows for an injured party to ask the court to instruct an Internet Service Provider to turn over records relating to a customer who has published defamatory remarks.
[Blocking anti-military blogs may harm military, Digital Fiji, May 14, 2007]
We will have to wait an see if anyone is willing to put their name and some evidence behind this accusation, otherwise it remains simply the unfounded finger-pointing of anonymous individuals with a clear anti-government political agenda.

Photo by: TW Collins

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dtabureguci said...

HI Chris,

I am on to a new angle with bloggers...lack of ICT coverage in mainstream media and how bloggers are filling in the gap...Digitalfiji is definitely on my list...also came across one good one on fiji:
http:/coconutwireless.wordpress, as well as my personal favourite of PNG, from which I have also been able to get out of Vanuatu.


thrashor said...

d - i think that you are onto something. there really is a serious lack of quality ict coverage in the mainstream press in the pacific and the blogs that you mention are helping to fill the void. in fact, coconutw has a story on this problem:

dtabureguci said...

yes, I read media out to coconutwireless yours too?
i was talking to Emmanuel of the Masalai blog and he reckons ICT coverage has yet to make it in the mainstream media in PNG because it's not yet a lifestyle thing there...perhaps when the markets open...

still, we have yet to see that consistent comprehensive coverage in the Pacific mainstream media and I would be very interested to hear what media organisations have to say about it.
From my experience, it is usually because reporters lack the depth to cover ICT and concerning daily media, reporters don't have the time to pursue it as an interest since they are always under pressure to produce five or six stories in a day. We've been pretty lucky at Islands Business with time allowed for research and actually talking and developing relationships with practioners.
But back to blogs, yes, I've recently realised that some of them (the ones I mentioned) are providing the type of material that I, as an ordinary person interested in ICT in the Pacific, would like to read.
No doubt that's the type of blogging that couldn't get political!


thrashor said...

d, i am not coconutwireless. but i enjoy his/her blog! you go with that story.

dtabureguci said...

bula Chris,

found this two days after I read your truth or slander post:

Seems like someone took the cue from your blog:))


Anonymous said...

Bula Chris:

I am a new blogger. I wonder if I could leave this link on your site?


PS. Yes, I know, I am an anonymous blogger.

thrashor said...

@dtabureguci - thanks, but i think they were tracking that story already! btw, Chaudhry is now names on the cover of the Fiji Times.

@anonymous - you just got your URL on my site!

Rizwan ud Dean said...

Hi Chris,

I think the issue of blogging is relatively new for a country like fiji where Internet is still considered a luxury to some extent. The rest of the world embraced blogging and its freedoms eons before we even realized its potential. Blogging is the ultimate freedom for people who are looking for an alternative and anonymous way of voicing their concerns and opinions about issues they feel concern them - in fiji, political bloggers are still fairly new to this domain and perhaps it does get reflected at times in their somewhat wild and incorrect posts. However, this has provided some people as the perfect solution for defaming others while hiding under the cloak of anonymity offered by peoplular blog sites such as Blogger and Wordpress. With the case in fiji, we've already seen the impact blogging has had, particularly on our government - it had at one point forced them to hunt bloggers who were spinning posts out of thin air with little or no credibility to any of the posts. In the process of hunting, some of us got caught in the crossfire and sites such as yours were also labeled as being "politically slanted."

Blogs created by people in fiji fell after some were hacked, blocked by FINTEL and the bloggers caught and charged. It was a time of worry for many of us who were simply trying to keep a low profile and blog about issues in our respective fields.

I think bloggers such as Solivakasama and a few other sites now remain but sites such as RFC and RRFC have all died after people either gave up or just lost interest in coming up with further tantalizing slanderous articles.

While there is an air of truth to some of the articles posted today on these sites, they are far too small by comparison to the slanderous articles the sites continue to encourage - which is rather sad.

To answer your question "Fiji political blogs: truth or slander?" means taking a side, which we as responsible bloggers should not do. The idea is to let the people who visit such sites decide for themselves after reading the articles.

My personal view: political blog sites relating to fiji are mainly crap and not worth reading... lets stick with the real issues - getting information and technology to those who need it in order to close the digital divide.

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