Frank Bainimarama –
Let me also confront head on the issue of media freedom and more particularly, the right of access to Fiji by certain of your journalists.
No one who reports on events in Fiji fairly and in a balanced manner is excluded.
Any journalist is free to criticise my government or me in an opinion piece or report criticism made by others in their news stories.
But we cannot allow the wilful propagation of false information that damages the national interest and undermines our vulnerable economy.
And that is what has happened in the case of certain New Zealand journalists and others from Australia.
Incidentally, no journalist from any other country has been banned from Fiji.
New Zealand television ran footage of tanks in the streets of Suva when our military does not own any tanks. They had been interposed from other sources.
A claim was made that Fijian children were starving and were eating grass. These are egregious examples of wilful bias and misreporting.
As a great British newspaper editor once said, “Comment is free but facts are sacred.”
Yet, certain journalists in New Zealand and Australia, along with certain journalists in Fiji, think nothing of dispensing with the facts if they get in the way of the politically weighted narrative they want to tell.
We are saying to the news organisations that employ them: “Send someone else. Someone who respects the facts and the right of people to know the truth. Not some twisted concoction.”
You have said that what has happened in the past is ancient history and you are looking for a more positive engagement yourself.
It is a sentiment I welcome. Because Fiji and New Zealand have had far too long a friendship and we are far too close geographically to allow this opportunity to pass. Friends can also say things to each other that others cannot.
For all our closeness at a people-to-people level, Fiji seeks a new political relationship with New Zealand that is more equal. More rooted in mutual respect. More understanding on New Zealand’s part of our own priorities – whether it is on the trade front with the Pacific Agreement of Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations or our desire to reform our regional architecture to give Pacific Islanders a bigger voice.
Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above is an extract of his speech at the State Banquet that he hosted in honour of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on June 9, 2016. The full text of his speech will appear in our next issue.
More Reports and pictures on the visit of Prime Minister John Key to Fiji appear in this Special Section.
Photo Caption: Bainimarama with Key at the traditional welcome in Suva on June 9.