February 23, 2017
Ms Jyoti Pratibha
Managing Editor (News)
The Fiji Sun
Dear Ms Pratibha
Erroneous, Malicious, Unbalanced Reporting and Editorial
We refer to your Editorial on page 10 of The Fiji Sun and Analysis on page 12 of The Fiji Sun, both on Wednesday 22nd February 2017. We find both the Editorial and the Analysis demeaning of the Party and of the Leader of the National Federation Party Honourable Professor Biman Prasad.
You stated in the Editorial “It is a real shame that these so called political leaders chose to look at this event as an opportunity to question the motive of the Fiji First Government. But it is not the Government who saw this as an opportunity to earn a brownie point event”.
You further said, “National Federation Party Leader Biman Prasad was at the funeral of a young man who is alleged to have committed suicide while in police custody. One can only imagine the conversation taking place there”.
This is an example of downright gutter and scandalous journalism. Neither you nor anyone from the Fiji Sun, unlike two broadcast media organisations, had the courtesy to call Professor Prasad to find the truth.
And your comment “One can only imagine the conversation taking place there” in reference to the funeral of the 19-year-old teenager is treating the death of Vikarant Chandra as a non-issue. You have turned the death of the teenager and the grief and mourning of the family into a conversation. This is despicable and shows your absolute lack of sympathy towards the family.
Furthermore, while the police have not commented on the cause of his death, you wade into it and allege that it was suicide. In doing so, you have broken all the cardinal principles of journalism and common decency.
Professor Prasad was invited by the late Mr Chandra’s family to attend the funeral. Unfortunately the timing of it clashed with the commemoration of the first anniversary of Severe TC Winston. It also clashed with the timing of a second funeral of a relative of a close friend of the Leader.
Professor Prasad conveyed his apologies to the National Disaster Management Office before 9am on Monday 20th February. Had he decided in the first instance not to attend the event at Albert Park, he would have conveyed his apologies days before when he received the invitation.
Most importantly, 50% of Professor Prasad’s salary is being deducted and directed towards relief work to rehabilitate the lives of victims of TC Winston. NFP Parliamentary Whip Honourable Prem Singh has also authorised deductions of 10% of his salary towards this humanitarian cause.
And both Professor Prasad and Mr Singh have decided to direct parliamentary emoluments increased by Parliament through a Motion introduced by Fiji First on 29th September 2016, towards relief and welfare work. They voted against the increase and have informed Parliament they will not personally benefit from the exorbitant increase.
These are not attempts to earn brownie points. It is genuine and personal sacrifice out of common human decency. No member of the Fiji First Government has made such sacrifices. All Government is doing is using taxpayer funds and aid donated by the international community for distribution.
All this is no secret to you and the Fiji Sun, but you deliberately and maliciously twist the facts to suit your agenda of denigrating the NFP and its Leader.
It seems genuine sacrifices by anyone opposed to Fiji First is unpalatable to you while exorbitant hike in emoluments (300% in the case of the Prime Minister’s allowance and also whose salary is 210% more than what was earned by the PM before the military coup), is totally acceptable to the Fiji Sun.
You might be interested to know that we have evidence of one Minister abusing donor aid by giving away school bags to children in the Suva-Nausori corridor, when these same bags were donated in March 2016 for distribution to children in areas affected by TC Winston.
But we don’t expect the Fiji Sun to highlight this and naturally so, because it is the beneficiary of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds paid to the company by Government through its exclusive advertising policy in the newspaper.
Your so-called “fact checking” on statements made by the Opposition regarding amendments to the Electoral Decree controversially called an Act, are laughable.
Specifically, your so-called fact checking tries to rubbish statements by the NFP Leader pointing out the Attorney General’s conflict of interest as Minister for Elections while being the General Secretary and Registered Officer of Fiji First.
You attempt to dismiss this statement by pointing out that Laisenia Qarase was Elections Minister as well while being Leader of SDL.
Your analysis is obviously based on your warped logic. And you have not reported a single word of the NFP’s Leader’s statement sent to the newspaper last Thursday (16th February) pointing out why and how the AG is influencing the work of the Elections Office, based on conclusive evidence outlined in the statement.
This saga is exactly the kind of journalism that led to the Multinational Observer Group’s recommendations on the Media. And the Fiji Sun is a living proof of absolute unethical, unbalanced and inaccurate journalism.
Any journalist, irrespective of his or her repute, qualification and experience, must always strive for ethical, responsible and accurate reporting because they are supposed to be messengers of truth. If one cannot comply with these principles and unashamedly continues to pander to the interests of a single entity while peddling half-truths and lies, then they are doing grave injustice to their profession.
Firstly, we expect you to adhere to the ethics of balanced journalism and publish the NFP Leader’s Media Statement sent last Thursday (23rd February).
Secondly, an apology or retraction of your defamatory statements in your editorial is now due immediately and should be published as prominently as your Editorial, given your continued attacks on NFP, failing which we will seek legal redress.
Lastly, we expect the contents of this letter to be published in full as an article and not as a letter to the Editor.
c.c. Mr Peter Lomas – Publisher/CEO, Fiji Sun
Mr Nemani Delaibatiki – Managing Editor (Training), Fiji Sun