Monday, July 19, 2010

Pirate radio station plan for uncensored Fiji news

Radio Australia -  July 19, 2010 

An Australian-based opponent of Fiji's interim government wants to set up a floating radio station to broadcast uncensored news into the country. Usaia Waqatairewa, the Sydney-based president of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement, says the idea is to put an antenna on a ship which would be located in international waters, outside Fiji's legal jurisdiction. The same concept was used by the so-called pirate radio stations which broadcast pop music to Britain, and New Zealand's Radio Hauraki, in the 1960s. Mr Waqatairewa says people in Fiji need the news that the Bainimarama government isn't letting them hear.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Usaia Waqatairewa, the Sydney-based president of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement

Listen:Windows Media

WAQATAIREWA: We've got blogs and we've got internet and we also have a regular discussion program every Tuesday night which streams live on the internet, so it can be heard in any parts of the world. But the problem though is that internet access in Fiji is very limited at the moment, it always has been very limited. It's probably limited to about five per cent of the population in the urban areas. What we're planning to do is to if we could in some way set up a freedom radio that does not have the control of the regime in Fiji and be able to broadcast out the real news, instead of their propaganda and what they have censored themselves.

HILL: Well, how can you set up a radio station to broadcast into Fiji. I mean you can't base a radio mast actually in Fiji, can you?

WAQATAIREWA: I'm planning to put a boat out into international water. They would not be able to touch it, put powerful antennas up on there that would be able to then broadcast out to the Fiji audience on an AM/FM frequency.

HILL: Sort of like the pirate radio stations in the North Sea in the 1960s that broadcast pop music into the United Kingdom?

WAQATAIREWA: Precisely that. We will also broadcast the pop music they banned in Fiji. For example, they recently banned the Te Amo song from Rihanna which is a favourite among the young people of Fiji.

HILL: Setting up a pirate radio station's probably a pretty expensive proposition. Do you guys have the backing, do you have the money for that sort of thing?

WAQATAIREWA: Eh well, nothing is impossible. We are trying to talk to supporters all over the world. There are a lot of supporters for freedom fighters out there. The government actually promote democracy and freedom and the various that actually exist in their own country. They would like that to be exported around, especially our metropolitan neighbours, Australia and New Zealand would like to have a democratic and free Pacific Islands.

HILL: Are you suggesting that you actually getting support from the Australian and New Zealand governments for this idea?

WAQATAIREWA: Hmm, we're talking to them. The door is open. It has to take a political wheel in as you know. There is going to be an election in 30 days time, so at the moment everything is hanging in the air for the time being, but it will eventually get there once the government comes in. We'll be able to then proceed onto something constructive.

HILL: What kind of programs would you broadcast? Your complaining that there is censorship in Fiji. Wouldn't your stuff simply be the same sort of thing, but from the other side?

WAQATAIREWA: Well, we need to hear the other side. At the moment, the other side is not talking at all. The other side is not being heard, which is our side. I regularly tune into Fiji One or the Bull FM which is the Fiji language station on the national broadcast network in Fiji and there's about three or four sessions there of just government officials coming in and bombarding the people with government propaganda, that the bridge they are building on this side or the agricultural show that is going on the other side or that Bainimarama has done this or Bainimarama has done that. The way they portray it as if it's Bainimarama's own initiative or if the money is coming out of Bainimarama's pocket. But when you look at the reality of this, the other flip side of the coin, is that this government has so irresponsibly gone out and taken soft loans from China and from everywhere else willing to give them money to be able to do this project.

HILL: You'll be transmitting from a boat. Boats can be vulnerable? Are you afraid the government might do something about the existence of that boat in international waters?

WAQATAIREWA: Well, that will be an act of war if it's an Australian registered boat or it's an American registered boat. As a matter of fact, we'll try and get an American registered boat and see whether they get to do something on it, especially in international waters. It's going to be piracy, or it's going to be an act of war.

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