Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fiji Regime Apologist Admits Paid Visit to Fiji at Tax Payers Expense.

by Mark Edge
Fiji Media Wars

The spinmeisters at Qorvis Communications are likely holding their heads in their hands and moaning today. It must be so frustrating when your would-be foot soldiers break the first rule of propaganda. Maybe they think that transparency will purify them and make their blog postings more believable. Instead it will probably have the opposite effect and make them much more easy to dismiss. C’mon guys! It’s like the First Rule of Fight Club. YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!!!
First it was blowhard blogger Grubby Davis who outed himself in September as a consultant to Qorvis, the U.S. public relations firm with the dodgy record that specialises in whitewashing authoritarian regimes worldwide. Grubby now enjoys weekly excursions to Suva from his home in Australia, no doubt flying first class and staying at the Holiday Inn, for consultations with Qorvis and MINFO. All of which is paid for by Fiji taxpayers, of course.
Now it’s retired USP professor Crosbie Walsh, (left picture) who blogs from New Zealand at Fiji: The Way it Is, Was and Can Be. Croz admitted yesterday that he took a free trip to Suva recently at Fiji government expense so he could take the pulse of the nation in the midst of consultations on a new (maybe) constitution.
"The Ministry of Information paid my travel costs, five days accommodation at Holiday Inn, they provided a vehicle to take me around, and gave me the temporary use of a tape recorder and a “dongle” to avoid the hotel’s high charge for internet access. Vinaka Sharon, Sharleen, Don and the three drivers, especially Freddie."
The founding head of Development Studies at USP promises a series of blog posts resulting from this visit, during which he interviewed all and sundry about the progress being made on the road to democracy in Fiji.
"I talked with the PM for a long 40 minutes, the Attorney-General and two Cabinet ministers, four permanent secretaries, Prof Yash Ghai and two other members of the Constitution Commission, and people from business, Qorvis, the NZ High Commission, the universities, the trade unions, the military, two NGOs involved in constitution education, the media (Fiji Times and Fiji Sun), the judiciary, the religious community, and one chief, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi."
Well, almost all and sundry. “I did not attempt to meet any of the leaders of the old political parties,” he admitted, “because their views are already well known and I thought I’d gain nothing from interviewing them.” This is where the problems begin with him accepting what’s called a “junket” in the journalism world. For whatever reason, Croz apparently did not even attempt to get the opposing view to those of his benefactors in government, which are also doubtless well known to him. And to believe that his reports would be untainted by his hosts’ largesse really stretches credulity.
Now, there are different opinions out there about Old Croz. Pacific Scoop has a page devoted to him that is practically a shrine. Fiji Democracy Now, not so much. It has hung him with an unflattering nickname and archives his greatest hits under More biased opinions from Crosbie Walsh. To be fair, Croz does not always come down on the side of Fiji’s interim government. He criticized the Essential Industries Decree, which has endangered Fiji’s duty free status in the U.S., from its introduction a year ago. He repeated just last month his opinion that the decree “undermined national trade unions [and] exposed workers to the whims of employers.”
He also, to his credit, urged the lifting of censorship more than a year ago while martial law was still being imposed under the Public Emergency Regulation. “If genuine dialogue is to take place on the constitutional and electoral reforms,” wrote Croz last June, “media censorship will have to be lifted.” In fact, he urged the government to lift the PER completely, which it finally did six months later. That wasn’t based on it being the right thing to do, however, but instead on the political capital the government would gain as a result. “These measures – and particularly the lifting of media restrictions – would win them immeasurable support and confound their opponents.”
There is no doubt that Croz wields considerable influence on foreign opinion concerning Fiji, and perhaps on domestic opinion as well. No wonder MINFO was eager to bring him up here and show him around. As long as he didn’t talk to the opposition, of course. Those who consider his opinions should now take into account whether he is independent or biased. Croz claims in his blog aims that his blog is balanced.
"This blog is unusual in aiming to present a balanced and helpful presentation of events in Fiji as they relate to the post-2006 military coup or takeover, and ideas on how Fiji may move forward to the election of a truly representative government serving all the people of Fiji."
Sorry, Croz. That just doesn’t fit with what you’ve done. As any first-year journalism student knows (mine certainly do), you will not have any credibility if you do not maintain an independence from those you write about. From now on it will be hard not to believe that you, like Graham Davis, are  beholden to the Fiji government.


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