Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hypocrisy and double talk

This year's General Conference of the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) is being held in Fiji which suffered a military coup on 10 April. Despite the military government censoring all media, and censors from the Ministry of Information being placed in all newsrooms to ensure that nothing critical of the military government is published, the AIBD decided to still go ahead and hold its annual conference in Fiji. So much for its advocacy of freedom of the press!

On 14 April, the Fiji government deported Australian and New Zealand journalists and cameramen from Fiji, and on 15 April the government announced that "free speech causes trouble" and media freedoms need to be curbed. The government then switched off the relay transmitters of Radio Australia in Suva and Nadi, effectively isolating Fiji from the international media. After that it was widely assumed that the AIBD would cancel or move its conference, but the Director of the AIBD, Javad Mottaghi, made no move to do so.

By the end of May it was clear he was intending to go ahead with his conference in Fiji, despite the continued crackdown on the media, but I decided not to go. I couldn't in all conscience go to a meeting being hosted by a military dictatorship (the AIBD is an inter-governmental organisation, so the Fiji government was the host) that was imposing such strict censorship on the media.

This afternoon I was alerted by a friend at Radio New Zealand International that they would be broadcasting an interview with Mottaghi as to why he had decided to proceed with his conference in Fiji, despite the fact that he'd had more than two months to find an alternative venue.

I listened to the interview online. He was asked whether it was wrong to censor the media in Fiji. He replied: "You see, you have certain definitions when it comes to certain issues. Then we have other definitions of the issues you are raising. The only way forward is to discuss. My maxim is to agree on disagreement of certain issues and to agree on agreement on certain issues".

Talk about avoiding the question!

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