Sep 27, 2008

Michael Field fields it as it is

Standards body slams Field
September 16, 2008

That, above, is a headline from the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation website.

Others in the Fiji media followed it, including the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun.

What is more astonishing, is that both newspapers lost their publishers in military deportations, but, in the new, tame age, now accept their versions of what happened from the Fiji Government. Not only are they completely gutless, they have lost the ability to read freely available documents themselves! They would rather take the word from some unnamed Fiji Government hack spin doctor.

That is the same Fiji Government that had me seized and deported. In addition, had their own publishers seized and deported.

Are their reporters such mice; or are they so intimated?

All right. Lets back up one.

In case anybody wants to cut to the chase and discover immediately how bad and dreadful I have been, then go to this connection, although, I advise, it is long and tedious.

What follows – by way of qualification – is my account of the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) and the appalling way in which both the Fiji and New Zealand media accepted a military government summary of what was in that BSA ruling.

The BSA is an independent, state funded body to deal with complaints about the broadcasting media. It deals with many complaints, some of which are about journalists. Such as myself. In the tradition of fair play, and all that, it is widely accepted that we reporters take it on the chin, that we do not argue with their Solomon like rulings. I will try to go along with this.

However, given that organisations like NZPA, the Fiji media and AUT's David Robie cannot be bothered to read the BSA ruling, and prefer to take the Fiji Government assessment of the situation, I will try to at least put some context into it all.

And, at Base One, is this: Bainimarama hates me.

To spare the poor reader any suspense, I have included, below, the statement of the Fiji Government about the BSA decision, and the NZPA account of the BSA ruling. Readers are also invited to Google the Fiji Times, Fiji Sun and Daily Post versions. And David Robie’s AUT account.

Welcome to Flat Earth News. The similarity between all and the relationship to the MotherLode Fiji Government maybe a coincidence.

Okay. I have assumed the reader has clicked on the link to the BSA above. If not, it might be useful to follow the extracts. I will go through it here. I add the rider than I am cautious about this; I passionately believe in the flow and nature of argument, even that from the Fiji Government.

My sympathy here lies with the reader who simply does not know they are being denied the full story.

And perhaps it is worth saying, early, that the whole BSA process was remarkably fair and detailed, anxious to please all sides and to ensure full balance and justice. Balance over truth. In fact, they were startlingly naïve and ignorant of the fact that they were adjudicating on a military coup in which people died. New Zealanders are like that; sweet innocents.

The BSA notes in its ruling that on March 7, 2008, I broadcast live on National Radio’s Nine to Noon programme about Fiji in which, shock horror, I am reported as saying the situation in Fiji is getting
“progressively worse”

Radical stuff.

I talked about the Fiji Sun’s Russell Hunter getting tossed out of Fiji. The same newspaper then accepts the Fiji Government’s view of the complaint about me. Oh well, the poor souls have to keep their jobs.

My broadcast was apparently listened to by a hitherto unknown Christchurch lawyer, Christopher Pryde, who, since the 2006 coup, has accepted the appointment of Solicitor General of Fiji. The BSA, in their wisdom, made no comment on the fact that a military regime had appointed a South Island lawyer to this post.

Pryde, of no known intellectual credibility, complained to the BSA (well, actually he didn’t and his note of complaint was so embarrassing that the BSA has saved him by taking it seriously) that my broadcast was "no more than an uneducated, ill–informed, deeply biased, unbalanced, and false account of recent events in Fiji".

That, I can live with. Critics are fine with me.

But this was a man from the Fiji military regime. He wanted more.

Thus the complaint to the BSA.

“Mr Pryde stated that Mr Field’s distaste for the Government of Fiji was obvious, and that his opinions had been accepted uncritically by the Nine to Noon host.”

Sigh. What planet is this man on?

The full complaint is detailed in the link given above.

The BSA, in its ruling, states the principles which guide it.

Being a humble hack, I will just point you to them.

What followed the Pryde complaint was a number of follow up questions and details.

Radio New Zealand, bless them, described me as:
“a commentator… engaged to comment on topical matters by way of their own opinion and analysis.”

Now, in the matter of the Fiji Sun and Russell Hunter, their publisher. Its funny to reflect that this same newspaper is now running the Fiji Government view of the BSA ruling.

In my broadcast I said Hunter had eight days to leave Fiji. Pryde said he had 21 days. The BSA, in their wisdom, found some significance in this. In other words, the BSA found it acceptable, thanks to Pryde, that tossing a man out with 21 days notice was okay; that Field was wrong to say he had eight days.

That’s fine. I was told eight days. I am wrong. Beat me up. It was 21 days. So much more civilised.

Pryde was offended by the idea that I linked Hunter’s deportation with the newspapers coverage of Mahendhra Chaudhry’s distinctly shadowy tax and donation matters. Well. On this I think the BSA is naïve and disconnected. But I will leave the readers to decide on that.

Lets cut to the chase here.

The BSA made some rulings (and in the interests of good Kiwi fairness I point to the link above) and the first matter in which I have been criticised is this. I said, on air, in public, to the whole nation: “And I’m just astonished this morning – the head of Fiji Broadcasting, who is the brother of the military–appointed Attorney–General, and the head of broadcasting’s a chap called Riyaz Saiyad–Khaiyum, has come out and said well the military were doing right because his staff were reporting rumours. I think it says something when the military–appointed management of a media outlet can now justify the military interrogation of their own journalists. It’s a dangerous world in Fiji to be a journalist there.”

What a shocking statement.

And the BSA has commented in rebuttal: “In the Authority’s view, Mr Field stated as a fact that the management of Fiji Broadcasting was "military-appointed". RNZ has acknowledged that this description was "not strictly accurate". Having reviewed the submissions from both parties, the Authority accepts that Mr Saiyad-Khaiyum was appointed by the Board of Fiji Broadcasting, not the military.”


If, dear reader, you believe the military appointed Attorney General’s brother got the job because he was the best for it, I am touched by your simplicity.

I do not believe it.

The BSA then embarrasses itself about whether people were given eight days or 21 days to leave Fiji.

Do they really believe the sum of the difference makes it right?

In my broadcast I left the impression, so the BSA holds it, that Justice Scutt disagreed with Justice Shameem.

Well, those of you who know anything about Fiji will know how funny that is.
But such are the dangers of live radio. You get your justices mixed up.

Is it important?


But anyway, lets stay with the BSA. They say I got it wrong. There was, in their view, two errors. The first one being the Fiji Broadcasting appointment. Well. Father Christmas requires a suspension of belief too. Two “errors” like this. Okay. Put me up against a wall and shoot me.

The BSA then goes into a lot about the New Zealand Bill of Rights and all that. Stuff about my right to say things, about my right to vote, about democracy and all that. Shocking stuff. Clearly out of place in discussing Fiji.

“In the Authority’s view, Mr Field did not suggest that publishing articles about Mr Chaudhry was the sole reason for Mr Hunter’s deportation. The journalist was providing commentary and analysis on the situation, and was trying to build a picture for listeners about Mr Hunter’s deportation before the presenter changed the direction of the conversation. Mr Field was cut off at a point where his argument was not fully developed, but it was clear that he did not consider that publishing articles about Mr Chaudhry was the entire story.”

And you did not read this in the Fiji Times or the Fiji Sun: “In these circumstances, the Authority finds that listeners would not have been misled by Mr Field’s statements. It declines to uphold this part of the complaint.”

The befuddled Christchurch lawyer now running Fiji’s law circles complained I used emotive language such as "dragooned", "kangaroo court" and "preached".

Did you read this in the media coverage of the BSA decision: “In the Authority’s view, Mr Field was entitled to use those terms as he was giving his own views on the situation. Listeners would have understood that Mr Field was speaking in his role as a commentator, and giving his personal opinion and insight.”

They go on a bit. But this is the killer statement here: “In these circumstances, the Authority declines to uphold the balance complaint.”

You did not read that on NZPA, David Robie, the Fiji Times, the Daily Post or the Fiji Sun.

You have got problems.


The Fiji Government press statement:

New Zealand Broadcasting Authority upholds SG complaint
Sep 15, 2008, 16:38

The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld the complaint by Fiji Solicitor-General, Mr Christopher Pryde against an item by Michael Field broadcast on Radio New Zealand in March this year.

Mr Pryde had complained that the update on events in Fiji in the broadcast was no more than an “uneducated, ill-informed, deeply biased, unbalanced, and false account of recent events in Fiji”.

Comments at issue related to the appointment of Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as head of Fiji Broadcasting, the deportation of Russell Hunter, Justice Scutt’s criticism of the Shameen Report, and the criminal attack on the judge.

In defence, Radio New Zealand had said that the statements complained of were not material to the discussion.

The BSA disagreed and considered all the statements were material as they contributed to the picture Mr Field was trying to build about a reign of terror in Fiji, in which officials and media should be afraid of speaking out.

The BSA said that the public has a right to expect that news and current affairs programmes would present material accurately.

Having upheld the complaint, the BSA declined to make any orders but said that the publication of their decision would serve as a reminder to commentators that they must ensure the accuracy of factual statements.


The New Zealand Press Association account:

Wellington, Sept 15 NZPA _ The New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) has upheld a complaint by Fiji's solicitor-general against Pacific Island affairs commentator Michael Field on Radio New Zealand.
Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde had complained a broadcast by Field in March was an ``uneducated, ill-informed, deeply biased, unbalanced, and false account of recent events in Fiji''.
The comments included criticism of the head of Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who was the brother of the military-appointed attorney-general, and the deportation of newspaper editor Russell Hunter.
Field also commented on Justice Jocelyn Scutt's criticism of the Fiji Human Rights Commission report, which said the Fiji coup had been legitimate.
Field linked that with an attack on the judge the following day.
Radio NZ said that the statements complained of were not material to the discussion.
The BSA said that the public had a right to expect that news and current affairs programmes would present material accurately.
The BSA declined to make any orders but said that the publication of its decision would serve as a reminder to commentators that they must ensure the accuracy of factual statements.

Kua na leqa Mikeli - we in Fiji know of your calibre and we believe YOU.

Full story at :


Keep The Faith said...

Don't matter none Micheal me matey!!

You've got my vote - bugger the BSA!!

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