Sunday, January 03, 2010

MOTI CASE: Australian media imperialism at play in Pacific? - 3/1/2010

Fallout from the Julian Moti trial has raised questions on whether the Australian media were complicit in fabricating a case against the Fiji-born former Solomon Islands attorney-general.

The Australian media were unprofessional, compromising media ethics, and wanting in not revealing dubious activities of the Australian Government as it pursued Moti. Canberra was seeking to extradite Moti from the Solomon Islands to Australia on child sex charges, accusations of which he had already been acquitted.

Perhaps, except for Auckland University of Technology Associate Professor David Robie's blog site Café Pacific and Pacific Scoop, few, if any of New Zealand's media also reported on this historic trial of Moti.

The constitutional law expert was " framed" by the Australian government which saw him as a threat to the operations of Australian imperialism in the Pacific.

This media blackout on this controversial trial has not been an exception but has become a rule. Very few Australian media gave the evidence the prominence it deserved and how it led to a Brisbane judge ordering a permanent stay on the prosecution of Moti.



If anybody has been shamed in this sordid affair, (of course apart from the Australian government, aided and abetted by its federal police) it is the media which had been implied as being the lapdog of the government by becoming their tool and happily throwing elementary principles of professional journalism out the window to become mere copy journalists, fed with information by the Australian authorities which they wanted peddled.

The media, including the Murdoch Empire and the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), have come into prominence not for their reporting, but for not reporting what they should have reported. It is a classical case of what media failed to tell.

When Moti initially came into prominence, it was when he was lined to be appointed as the Attorney-General of the Solomon Islands and he was seen as a threat to Australia's domination in the Solomon Islands through Australian government's flagship intervention project, the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Australians feared that Moti's legal expertise as Solomon's Attorney-General could be used to strip RAMSI personnel of their immunity from Solomon's laws, thereby threatening the operation's collapse.

The World Socialist Web Site reported Justice Debra Mullins as acknowledging that the Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigation began not because a complaint was received from the alleged victim "but because of the political calculations of Australia's High Commissioner in Solomon Islands, Patrick Cole."

In a memo written in October 2004, Cole had warned of Moti's "anti-Australian and anti- RAMSI perspective" and that his appointment would make it difficult for Australia and RAMSI to continue with its domination in the Solomons.

While Moti was initially charged for an alleged sex case in Vanuatu in 1998, he was cleared by the courts in Vanuatu in 1999. However, the Australian press commenced with its heavy coverage when Moti was announced to be appointed as Attorney-General of Solomon Islands in 2006.

The then Prime Minister in Solomons, Manasseh Sogavare, and his government came under intense pressure from Australia for their apparent anti-RAMSI stance and also with the announcement of yet another Indo Fijian, Jahir Khan, to be their new Commissioner of Police. The Australian Commissioner of Police was deported by Sogavare for allowing Sogavare's office to be searched by the Australian Police while he was attending Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Fiji.



The political orchestration by the Ministers in calling Moti as an alleged "child sex" offender was stepped up in media as part of an anti-Sogavare campaign to oust him, in which the conspiracy succeeded. Patrick O'Connor of the World Socialist Web Site reported that virtually every Australian newspaper published front-page reports written by senior journalists while television and radio news networks also prominently featured the initial story.

What the media failed to highlight was that this was not an offense that took place in Australia. It happened in Vanuatu, it was investigated, Moti was charged and ultimately the charges were dismissed and he was cleared in 1999.

Moti told World Socialist Web Site that he found it surprising that some seven years after his discharge, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) took an interest in him on the eve of his appointment as Attorney General of Solomon Islands.

He accused the AFP of dredging up the unfounded allegation through bribery of the witness.

The court had heard that while minimum wage in Vanuatu was just $240 a month or $2880 per year, it was revealed that the Australian government had spent some $150,000 on the victim and the family for their personal expenses as well as for entertainment and business ventures.

The Judge is reported as saying that the conduct of AFP in taking over the financial support of those witnesses who live in Vanuatu was an affront to the public conscience.

Moti was critical of media for not fulfilling its professional and ethical obligations. He accused the media of not doing its job properly in not exposing what had been revealed during the court hearings which were also very sparsely reported.

While the Australian media contributed to the government's vendetta in sensationalising the sexual assault allegation, they were prominently absent from the courtroom to report on the abuse of office by AFP and unethical and immoral bribery and other claims. Media virtually imposed news blackout when things were in Moti's favour and he was "absolved" of any wrongdoing.

The media failed to pursue evidence that were revealed during the course of the case. Apart from the witness bribery claim of $150,000, the other one was a texted mobile message from the alleged victim to an AFP officer where she had threatened to say she was used as a tool by the Australian Government for political and neo colonial reasons if her conditions were not met.

These stories never made it to the front pages of Murdoch and other papers which had taken front-page frenzy in publicising about the Indo Fijian paedophile when the Australian government brought the dubious and questionable case against him.



None of the above details including the flawed process have been revealed. Patrick O'Connor of World Socialist Web Site feels that this extraordinary omission was only explainable as a conscious decision to suppress the truth about the Moti case. He accused the media of simply ignoring the significant evidence of involvement of Australian police and other officials in dubious, if not unlawful activity throughout their pursuit of Moti.

The entire episode served as a case study in the media's role as a critical partner of Australia imperialism's filthy operations in the South Pacific. The Australian media remains accused of placing itself at the government's disposal when critical strategic and economic interests were at stake, and in case of Moti, simply burying unpleasant truths that pointed to the real agenda of Canberra in imposing neo-colonialism in the Pacific.

The issue that we have on our doorsteps is: what happens when the fourth estate fails to honour its principled ethics and compromises basic media principles?

Is there then a need for a fifth estate to be the watch dog of the watchdog that the fourth estate was intended to be in the first place?

While that question is left to the media fraternity and academics to answer, the available evidence suggests that dubious Australian imperialism in the Pacific is not merely confined to the government, but extends to the mainstream Australian media as well.

l Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post. He is now at the Pacific Media Centre in Auckland and writing for

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