Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fiji's Media Join the Coup

By Michael Field - February 16, 2010

We are told, in a censored report from Fiji, that one of the coup perpetrators has defined crime thus: “Every crime has a mental element and a physical element, physical element is the act and the mental element is the mind.”

The words, according to the Daily Post, as those of Nazhat Shameem, the key player in the judicial coup that sacked a chief justice, and now a close adviser to Voreqe Bainimarama. She has no judicial job, because she sacked the constitution.

The context was her explanation to the apparently now rather dim-witted Fiji media who rolled along to a military regime course on how to be a journalist.

The regime's Information Ministry, headed by that towering intellect and drummer Neumi Leweni, who is now looking for another job after New Zealand said he could not live in Wellington.

Without even the vaguest nod of consultation with the public, Shameem and Bainimarama have come up with some kind of decree defining crime.

A couple of changes relate to abortion and prostitution, in which Shameem and her friend clearly come down hard upon.
I've no problem with their point of view as such, but the reality is that these are the very issues which a society must reach a democratic consensus upon, rather than a military decree about. Abortion and prostitution, like many crimes, are social issues; a society has to agree on what is right and wrong. Otherwise the reality is that they are just fatwahs which Bainimarama will police with his guns.

But back to the supine media.

Shameem told them – as other followers have - that that their new Crimes Decree makes no change to the crime of treason.

It is breathtakingly disingenuous.

Treason is a subtle crime of overt acts that involve complex points of defence. Overt acts can be legal acts, but taken in combination, can add up to the crime of treason.

It is not screaming obvious, but the subtle changes in the treason definition in the decree are about protecting those who purported to draft this decree from the very charge itself.

Let us not forget, that under the constitution they purported to overthrow, it is an overt act of treason to purport to overthrow the constitution. Its one of the acts that George Speight was convicted of (and for old time’s sake, I’ve added the treason charges he faced as an appendix).

Now it is not - at least in their military crime decree - wrong to attack a constitution.

The new decree makes it treason to attack Bainimarama and the regime; it was not, in Shemeem’s view, treason to attack the constitution. She has legalised their illegal act: that is the subtlety none of the followers saw.

As Shameem considers herself an international jurist, she will be embarrassed to realise she is living the maxim of 17th Century John Harington, inventor of, among other things, Britain's first flushing toilet.

He would not have heard of Fiji but he came up with the maxim appropriate to Fiji's military crime decree: "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

Now I did not need Shameem and Leweni’s training to figure all this out.

I read the military decree.

I have no problems with journalists talking to who ever they like to get the facts.

But when a Rupert Murdoch publication, the Fiji Times, provides its training facilities to the regime for an Education Camp on Military Decrees, you know reporters have lost their way.

By their behaviour, they have become complicit in the regime’s behaviour.

Prize for the idiot remark of the day goes to Fiji Times managing director Anne Fussell; “the media workshop has been invaluable in helping our journalists have a better understanding of the intricacies of the judicial system.”

It has nothing to do with the judicial system; it is all military power and rule.

“A properly functioning judicial system lies at the heart of any society and the media is the public's eyes and ears in court so it is important we do as effective and efficient a job as possible."

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation's news editor Stanley Simpson – a military controlled and censored state body - said it was important for journalists to understand the decree.

"It is critical that the media reports court proceedings and judicial processes responsibly and effectively, and the workshop provided a valuable policy for practicing journalists to examine how they do their work," he said.

One can only agree; so why not get independent, impartial experts to comment.

The workshop was run by the people who overthrew it all. Its like getting a burglar in to define burglary.

Yes, I live in Auckland; I don’t have censors in my newsroom and anything I say about all this can be taken with a grain of salt and a “easy for you to say”.

Last year I spent a decent amount of time in Kausani, India, working on a book. Nearby was an ashram run by a chap who lived in an authoritiarian, largely military controlled and undemocratic society.

He was jailed countless times, and many of his followers were beaten up and killed.

But they kept going; never raising arms or guns.

It was called passive resistance, and his name was Gandhi.

Why didn’t Fiji journalists simply choose not to go to Shemeem’s School of Indoctrination.

They’ve done sweet all else.

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